Together we will beat cancer


Trouble Sleeping

6 Dec 2017 16:15

My mum has just started her chemo for breast cancer and whilst she has never been a particularly good sleeper, she is hardly getting any sleep at the moment - mostly thought the fact that her mind is going over and over everything. Her GP prescribed some sleeping tablets, but told her not to take them unless she has to, due to the fact that they can be addictive.

This has put her off taking them, but even on the days she has given in, she is still only getting a max of 4 hours sleep a night. This then stresses her out as she is now worrying that if she isn't sleeping enough, she won't be strong enough to handle the treatment and any side effects.

Should I encourage her to see her GP again and ask for more help, or is there anything else that she can try - most herbal remedies have already been tried and failed!

Thanks in advance Happy

Re: Trouble Sleeping

6 Dec 2017 16:20 in response to Kerra


I'd suggest that she revisits her GP and explains her anxiety about the possible addictive qualities of the drug. I had a long discussion with my GP about not being able to sleep through cancer-related anxiety and he came up with something suitable and non-addictive. In my case mirtazapine.

Best wishes


Re: Trouble Sleeping

6 Dec 2017 16:29 in response to davek

Thanks Dave - that's really helpful. I'll encourage her to go back Happy


Best wishes to you too 


Re: Trouble Sleeping

7 Dec 2017 14:42 in response to Kerra

Hi Kerra

Thanks for posting on our forum.  I am sorry to read about what your mum has been experiencing.

I agree with Dave, it is a good idea for your mum to re-visit her GP and explain how worried she is about taking the sleeping tablets. Although sleeping tablets can have addictive qualities, this doesn’t mean to say this will happen with your mum. It sounds like she would be very cautious in taking them. Her GP would only give a limited supply initially anyway as they do not want patients on this long term. We have some information on our website about sleeping problems that you may find useful here. It also gives some self-help tips too. NHS Choices also has some advice as well.

From what you have explained your mum has tried many things already, and it sounds like she is very worried and anxious. I imagine this is probably the cause of why she is not sleeping. There is so much that has just happened it will take time for her to adjust to what is happening. A cancer diagnosis is tinged with lots of uncertainty so this will have a knock-on effect and increase someone’s anxiety and worry also.

There are ways to help and the best idea would be to speak with her breast care nurse (also known of clinical nurse specialist). Your mum could ask what support they offer at the hospital. By this I mean counselling, or any local support groups with women in similar situations to herself. I know a lot of people get put off by counselling but it can be very beneficial in helping give advice and working out techniques for people to cope with stressful and worrying situations. I also wondered if your mum’s local hospital has access to complementary therapy sessions. These could things like foot and hand massages, reiki and aromatherapy. They can help towards relaxing a patient as to reduce the stress and worry at the time. It may help people in getting a better night’s sleep.     

There are of course many other causes of why people don’t sleep. Another reason could be medication. I wondered if your mum is taking a steroid anti-sickness. These are commonly used but need to be taken at the right time of day or will keep you awake at night.  

I hope this has been helpful, and your mum gets some good sleep soon. You are more than welcome to get back to us if you have any more questions or call us on 0808 800 4040. We are here from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.

Best wishes


Re: Trouble Sleeping

11 Dec 2017 16:37 in response to CRUK Nurse Georgina

Thank you Georgina.

Mum has spoken with her GP and they have given her a mild anti depressant to help with the anxiety side of things.

I think this is all just so frightening for her that she is constantly anxious at the moment. I'm hoping in time she will learn to cope with it better. I will suggest the complementary therapy and counselling to her too as I do think talking to an expert might ease her mind somewhat.

Kerry Happy