Sleep Tight, Recover Tight: Tips For Better Sleep

Do not underestimate the power of quality sleep, especially for cancer patients. Here are ways to ensure a rejuvenating night.


While the popular adage recommends eight hours of sleep, it is crucial to remember this is a recommended average, says Dr Wong. Sleep needs vary: some people may thrive on four hours, while others need a full 10. Focus less on duration and more on how well you have slept.

CONSIDER THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A RESTFUL NIGHT’S SLEEP AND A RESTLESS ONE: the stark contrast in clarity of thought and mood underscores the vital role of sleep in our health. To illustrate the profound impact of sleep, studies1 have shown that even a single night of sleep deprivation can significantly impair judgement and reaction times, similar to the effects of being under the influence of alcohol.

But what happens when we sleep? Rather than switching off, our brain and body spring into action, performing essential processes that maintain our health and enhance our daily performance. This vital downtime helps lower our blood pressure, offers respite to our cardiovascular system, and facilitates various hormonal functions including cellular repair and immune system support.


Despite the undeniable benefits, many struggle to achieve consistent, quality sleep. The Singapore Mental Health Study 20162 revealed that nearly three in 10 Singaporeans experience disturbed sleep regularly. While some of this can be self-inflicted, such as binge-watching or habitual scrolling on social media, there are uncontrollable factors too — like insomnia. The condition where one struggles to fall or remain asleep may be exacerbated with age due to reduced production of melatonin, a hormone that helps promote sleep.

Moreover, anyone who has battled cancer or seen a loved one through it knows the toll it can take on sleep. Studies3 indicate that up to half of cancer patients experience sleep-related issues during their treatment. Various reasons can contribute to sleep disturbances. Some patients may suffer due to treatment side effects, or the medicines prescribed. Others are kept up at night as they grapple with the mental strain of a cancer diagnosis. Hospital stays introduce another set of challenges: unfamiliar settings and frequent — but necessary — check-ins by medical staff.


Cancer patients often perceive sleep disturbances as an expected aspect of their health journey. However, there are steps that can enhance sleep quality.

  • Establish a bedtime routine: Adopt calming activities like gentle stretching or reading to prepare your body for sleep.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule: Sleeping and waking at consistent times can help set your body’s internal clock.
  • Create a conducive sleep environment: Ensure your room is dark, quiet and cool. Consider using blackout curtains or a white noise machine — a device that emits calming sounds, such as those of a waterfall or rustling leaves — to promote relaxation.
  • Reduce screen time: Keep away from devices like phones or computers at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from screens can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Address stress: Practice relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga to manage anxiety and foster restful sleep.


If natural approaches do not alleviate your sleep issues, consult your oncologist. Depending on the cause of your insomnia, they may refer you to a psychologist or a sleep doctor, who could recommend an overnight sleep study. This examination monitors your nocturnal brain activity to identify the source of your sleep difficulties, allowing for targeted treatment.

While medication can offer relief, it is best considered as a last resort due to potential overreliance. Sometimes, directly addressing symptoms or side effects causing the sleep disturbance may be more beneficial.

Always turn to your healthcare partner for guidance. Their expertise is invaluable because quality sleep accelerates the healing process.

Five habits to avoid at bedtime

  1. Continuous scrolling on devices
  2. Watching the clock
  3. Late caffeine and heavy meals
  4. Working out just before bedtime
  5. Alcohol before sleep


POSTED IN Cancer Prevention, Psychological Health
TAGS cancer tips, healthy lifestyle