Tips for a better night's sleep

Regular, good quality sleep is important when you are feeling tired.

Keeping to your normal sleeping pattern, even if you want to sleep all the time, can help. There are different things you can do to improve your sleep and rest. You might want to try:

  • keeping a bedtime routine
  • reducing light and noise in your bedroom
  • keeping a worry diary to record any thoughts that stop you sleeping
  • getting some exercise – this may help you to sleep better in the long term.

If you struggle to get to sleep, there are things you can do to help. It’s a good idea to have a small snack or a warm drink before bed. But try not to drink stimulating drinks, such as coffee, close to bedtime as this can keep you awake. You might also want to try mental exercises if you can’t get to sleep. For example, try to remember the lines of a song, make alphabetical lists or write a letter in your mind.

Your doctor or nurse can give you more advice on how to manage your fatigue.

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 below tips for a better night’s sleep might help you to make the most of your rest periods.

Top tips for a better night’s sleep

  • Good-quality sleep is very important and may help to relieve fatigue, as well as reduce your need to sleep during the day.
  • Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day. Having a long lie-in after a sleepless night can lead to a disrupted sleep pattern.
  • Gentle exercise like walking and keeping your mind occupied with activities like reading, games or puzzles will help you feel naturally tired and ready for sleep.
  • Get into a relaxing routine before bed. Try having a warm bath or shower, reading or listening to soothing music. Listening to an audio book or a relaxation exercise on CD, tape or MP3 player can also be helpful.
  • Make your bedroom a relaxing place to be in. Create an area that’s dark, quiet and comfortable.
  • Avoid large meals and stimulants like caffeine or cigarettes in the late evening. Try having a warm, milky drink before bed.
  • Although a small alcoholic drink can help, too much alcohol can lead to disrupted sleep.
  • Some medicines, for example, steroids, can cause sleeplessness. Ask your doctor or nurse whether you could take them earlier in the day. They may suggest you take them before 2pm.
  • If you find it difficult to fall asleep or if you wake up during the night and can’t get back to sleep again, get up and go to another room. Do something else, like read or watch TV, until you feel tired again.
  • If you find that worries or concerns are keeping you awake, write them down. You can then speak to someone about them later.
  • 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.
  • Consider a warm bath, with relaxing oils or burning of essential oils such as lavender in a diffuser.

Mental exercises to help you sleep

Mental exercises can also help you to sleep. Below are a few 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 booklets.

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.