Hormonal treatments for breast cancer can lower the levels of sex hormones in the body. These hormones are oestrogen and progesterone in women.
Low levels of sex hormones can cause hot flushes or anxiety, making sleep difficult. Coping with other symptoms can feel harder if you are not sleeping well.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can control symptoms like these. But unfortunately you can’t take HRT if you are having breast cancer treatments that aim to stop the body producing sex hormones or block the action of the hormones.
Most adults sleep for 8 hours a day but this varies from person to person.
An occasional night without sleep will make you tired the following day, but it won't affect your health. It can make concentrating and decision making more difficult. Coping with other symptoms may feel harder if you are not sleeping well.
Understanding why you are finding it difficult to sleep will help you to find possible solutions.
Sleeplessness can be:
- difficulty falling asleep
- difficulty staying asleep
- waking up often or too early in the morning
- waking up unrested (poor quality sleep)
Tips to help with sleep:
- go to bed and get up the same time each day and reduce naps
- do some light exercise each day to tire yourself
- make sure the room is not too hot or too cold
- relax before bedtime, by taking a bath or listening to music
- avoid alcohol for 6 hours before going to bed
- don't go to bed hungry
Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have tried these tips and they haven’t helped.
Treatment for sleeplessness (insomnia)
Your doctor might suggest a short course of tablets to help you sleep. There are many types of medication available.
Some people are not keen on taking sleeping tablets but a short course may help you to get back into a healthy sleeping pattern.
Medication to help with sleep include:
- benzodiazepines (lorazepam, temazepam)
- non benzodiazepine hypnotics (zopiclone, zaleplon)
- melatonin (if you are over 55)
Complementary therapies for sleeplessness
Counselling can help if your thoughts and emotions are affecting your sleep. There are different types of counselling including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This type of counselling helps you change how you respond to situations or emotions.
Other complementary therapies
Many people want to try alternative therapies including accupunture and aromatherapy. There is limited evidence about how well they work.