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Sleep problems and sex hormone symptoms

This page is about sleep problems caused by sex hormone changes. Some cancer treatments lower the amount of sex hormones in the body. These hormones are oestrogen and progesterone in women and testosterone in men.

Low levels of these hormones can disrupt your sleep by causing symptoms such as hot flushes and anxiety that keep you awake. If you don’t feel as though you have had a good night’s sleep you may feel tired and find it difficult to cope with other symptoms. In turn this can make sleep problems worse, and so it goes on.

Some people are able to have hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to control symptoms like these. But unfortunately you can’t take HRT if you are having breast or prostate cancer treatments that aim to stop the body producing sex hormones or block the action of the hormones.

There are a number of things you can do to try to sleep better, including

  • Getting help with other symptoms such as hot flushes and anxiety
  • Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day
  • Trying to sleep in a quiet, calm room
  • Making the room you sleep in a comfortable place you like to be in – an untidy room may be distracting and make you feel anxious
  • Make sure you aren’t too hot or too cold
  • Sleeping with the window open if you prefer, as long as it isn’t noisy or cold
  • Relaxing before bed by having a warm bath, and reading or listening to music or a relaxation tape
  • Doing some light exercise each day to help tire yourself physically
  • Not drinking too much alcohol before bed – you may fall asleep to start with but then may have a disturbed night
  • Avoiding caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate and cola drinks) after early afternoon
  • Cutting down on dozing during the day may help you to sleep longer and more deeply at night
  • Having a light snack or a warm milky drink before you go to bed to stop hunger waking you up

If you have tried all these and none of them help, do speak to your doctor or specialist nurse. They may be able to reassure you. Or they may suggest a short course of tablets to help you sleep There are many types of medicine available that don’t give you a hangover the next morning. Some people are not keen on the idea of sleeping tablets, but a short course may help you to get back into a good sleeping pattern.

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Updated: 5 August 2013