Support if you have fatigue

If you find it difficult to cope with your fatigue, it might be helpful to talk about how you’re feeling.

You may want to talk to a counsellor. They can help you talk about your feelings and help you find ways of dealing with them. Our cancer support specialists can tell you about services in your area or you can ask your GP to refer you.

Other people find it comforting to speak to a religious or spiritual advisor about how they are feeling. You don’t need to have any particular faith, as they are used to supporting people of different faiths, or no faith, in times of need

You may find it helpful to talk to other people in a similar situation. You can meet people by joining a support group. There are cancer support groups all over the UK. Or you may want to join an online support group or chat room. You can talk to other people or just read people’s posts. Online support groups are usually available 24 hours a day and are easy to join and leave. On our online community, you can share your thoughts and get support from other people in a similar situation.

Sleep when coping with fatigue

It’s very important to try to keep to a normal sleep routine, even though your fatigue may make you feel like sleeping all the time.

There are many ways to overcome fatigue, which your nurse or doctor can discuss with you. In the meantime, the tips below might help you to make the most of your rest periods.

10 tips for better rest

Good-quality sleep is very important and may help to relieve fatigue, as well as reduce your need to sleep during the day.

  1. Sleep for just long enough to feel refreshed the following day, but don’t sleep for longer than you need. Spending too much time in bed is likely to affect the quality of your sleep.
  2. Exercise regularly if you can, as this may help you sleep better in the long term.
  3. Wake up at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time so you get into a good sleep routine.
  4. Keep your bedroom for sleeping. If you wake during the night, go to another room in the house. If you need to sleep during the day, go to your bed to sleep.
  5. Reduce light and noise at night-time as this will disturb your sleep. Even occasional loud noises (such as an aircraft flying overhead) affect sleep. If there’s too much light, try using a heavier pair of curtains or an eye-mask. If your bedroom is noisy, you could try using ear plugs.
  6. Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortably warm. If your room is very warm or very cold, your sleep may be affected.
  7. Have a bedtime snack but avoid stimulants and limit your alcohol intake at night-time. Hunger may disturb sleep. Have a light bedtime snack, warm milk or a hot drink before going to bed if you find it helps you sleep, but avoid food and drinks that contain stimulants such as caffeine for a few hours before bedtime. While alcohol can help people to fall asleep more quickly, the sleep tends to be disturbed. It may also give you a dry mouth and an unpleasant taste that can wake you up, so it’s best to limit your intake of alcohol near bedtime.
  8. Be aware of how naps affect you. Some people find that daytime naps help them sleep better at night, while others sleep less well after them. Find out what suits you best.
  9. Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. Rather than lying in bed tossing and turning, get up and watch television or read a book. You could try listening to audiobooks, which are available from most bookshops and libraries, or can be downloaded from the internet. Wait until you feel tired again and then go back to bed.
  10. Keep a worry book. If you wake at night and are worrying about things, write them down. You can then work through your list during the day and get support and advice from relatives, friends or from your doctor or nurse.

Mental exercises to help you sleep

Mental exercises can also help you to sleep. Here are a few mental exercises that you may like to try. They usually take about 10 minutes to do:

  • Try to remember the lines of a song or poem.
  • Make alphabetical lists of girls’ or boys’ names, countries, trees or flowers.
  • Relive in detail a favourite experience.
  • Write a letter in your mind.
  • Use a relaxation exercise.

You can get more information on sleeping well from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which produces a range of useful information leaflets.

Back to Tiredness (fatigue)

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is feeling very tired most, or all, of the time. It can sometimes be caused by cancer or cancer treatment.

What causes fatigue?

There are many causes of fatigue. Knowing about them may help you to cope with your fatigue a bit better.

Tips for better rest

Tiredness can affect your sleeping patterns. There are ways to manage this so you get the most out of your rest.

Tips to help manage symptoms of fatigue

Making some simple changes to your diet and exercise routine may help manage symptoms of fatigue.

Tips to help you manage everyday activities if you have fatigue

Plan ahead if you have fatigue. Keeping a fatigue diary can help you organise your everyday activities.

Managing work if you have fatigue

Speak to your employer or HR department about changes you can make at work to help you cope with fatigue.

Talking to your doctor or nurse about fatigue

It’s important to talk to your doctor or nurse about how fatigue is affecting you and your life.

Looking after someone with fatigue

There are things you can do to help someone cope with fatigue. You may find it useful to keep a fatigue diary.