Cancer related sleep problems

If after undergoing cancer treatment, do not neglect or disregard sleep problems.

I disregarded many of the warning signs of my cancer.  By the time I got around to going to the doctor, it was already Stage 4.  I could have avoided many of the complications brought about by the several surgeries, extensive chemotherapy treatments and to 38 radiation treatments, had I went to the doctor before my cancer advanced to Stage 4.

Do your self a favor; do not disregard any symptoms that you feel like your body is suffering from. This is extremely important if the situation is already getting in the way for you to do function normally.

Sometime after my cancer treatment, I had difficulty falling asleep or more importantly staying asleep.  I found myself gasping for air.  It was scary.  I knew I wasn’t getting enough sleep needed to feel refreshed when I woke up the next day.

Sleeping pills didn’t work.  Finally my doctor sent me to the sleep lab at my local hospital.  Actually, I went to the sleep lab twice.  It was determined that I had sleep apnea.  This was causing me to suffer from various forms of side effects.

The word apnea is a Greek term that means to breathe. My sleep apnea was blocking my airway causing my breathing to stop at irregular periods during the night.  This caused my brain to act immediately. When you breathing stops, your brain sends signals and goes into a defensive mode to force you to wake up and breathe.

I also learned that I was not getting the right amount of oxygen at night. I was told this may lead to high blood pressure and serious heart conditions. I was told, because of my age this could be very risky.

I was fitted with a c-pap.  A gas mask like device I wore at night.  I know this works fine for some people.  It didn’t for me.  I had the medical supply store come and remove the device from my home.

Maybe you’re like me and you are not comfortable using breathing devices and mouthpieces.  After undergoing cancer treatment, you don’t particular want to even consider some surgical procedures to relieve sleep apnea.  And like me, more prescription medicine does not sound too inviting.

I am happy to report that I am sleeping quite well now.  I don’t even get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  I am not tired in the morning either.  My solution was quite simple.  I made some lifestyle changes.  Following are a few of the changes I made that working for me..  I hope they help you.

  1. I no longer go to sleep with the TV set on a timer.  I turn it off when I get in bed.  Turning the TV off led me to the second change.
  2. I used to fall asleep lying on my back watching the TV.  Now I sleep on my side.  I discovered that many sleep apnea patients admit lying on the back when sleeping. This position could narrow airway passages due to impact of gravity.
  3. I read somewhere to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages at least four hours before bedtime.  I did better.  I quit drinking alcoholic beverages altogether.
  4. I went on a diet.  Research found that those with sleep apnea who lose weight experience up to 26% of sleep apnea problems.
  5. I quit smoking!  Studies have shown that smoking worsens sleep apnea.
  6. I do use some over the counter allergy medicine recommended by my doctor.  This does two things; It makes me drowsy and helps keep my nasal passages open.

I am not a doctor.  I am a cancer survivor who developed sleep apnea.  I am not making any recommendations of how you should deal with sleep problems, especially, sleep apnea.  These things worked for me.  Discuss these things with your doctor before implementing them.

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