Sleep problems and sex hormone symptoms | Cancer Research UK
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Sleep problems and sex hormone symptoms

This page is about sleep problems caused by sex hormone changes. You can read about


Sleep and sex hormone changes

Some cancer treatments lower the levels 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.

couple talking to a nurse

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.


Tips to help you sleep better

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

  • Get help with other symptoms such as hot flushes and anxiety
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day
  • Make your room quiet and calm
  • Try to keep the room comfortable and a 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
  • Sleep with the window open if you prefer, as long as it isn’t noisy or cold
  • Relax before bed by having a warm bath, and reading or listening to music or a relaxation tape
  • Do some light exercise each day to help tire yourself physically
  • Don't drink too much alcohol before bed – you may fall asleep to start with but then may have a disturbed night
  • Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate and cola drinks) after early afternoon
  • Cut down on dozing during the day to help you to sleep longer and more deeply at night
  • Have 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 tips and they don't 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. 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: 29 June 2015