Sleep Disturbances

The stress of the disease or treatment, hormonal changes and some medications can cause sleep disturbances. The most common sleep disturbances are insomnia, breathing disorders, and movement disorders, such as restless legs syndrome.


Insomnia is reported twice as often in patients with cancer. It can be acute, occurring for days or weeks at a time. Women experience insomnia more often than men.

Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty getting to and staying asleep
  • Sleep that does not restore energy on a regular basis
  • Waking too early

Types of Insomnia

Transient insomnia is associated with emotional distress during a personal crisis or the use of stimulants (such as caffeine) or medications.
Chronic insomnia lasts for several weeks and is associated with medical illnesses or mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

Managing Insomnia

It’s important to find a way to manage insomnia because chronic sleep deprivation can lead to difficulties in concentration, irritability, depression, fatigue, mood disturbances, headaches, diarrhea, GI disturbances and heart palpations.

Medications may help with sleep or changes in sleep habits. However, before discussing sleeping medication with your doctor, read Get a Good Night’s Sleep for tips on how to get a better night’s rest without medication.