Breast Cancer: Dealing with Sleep Issues

Patient Expert

Sleep can prove elusive when you're going through breast cancer. From worry-induced insomnia, to disruptions in your normal routine, to menopausal side effects, there are many reasons you might be lying awake staring into the dark at 2 a.m. Looking for solutions to sleeplessness? Check out our five-part series detailing sleep issues and breast cancer.

Why can't I sleep?

While one-quarter of Americans report having sleep issues, studies show that up to 90% of cancer patients in active treatment have trouble sleeping. And for some, that sleeplessness ultimately stretches way beyond the end of treatment. Find out what might be causing your sleepless nights. (Hamel, 2007)

It's natural - unfortunately

It's NOT all in your head There's a biological basis for your sleeplessness, and it lies in your body's circadian rhythm - a.k.a. your biological clock. Read more about the science of sleeplessness.

Two proven paths to better sleep

Prescription drugs are often prescribed for short-term sleep issues, in hopes the body will revert back to its usual healthy sleep pattern, given some relief from constant wakefulness. But drugs aren't the only answer. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that six weeks of behavioral therapy - learning new pre-bedtime routines designed to invite sleep back into your life - is more effective than a prescription sleep aid. Read more about these two ways to battle sleeplessness. (Hamel, 2007)

Resetting your biological clock

An experimental sleep study yields surprising results: staying up later for a few months can reset your circadian rhythm, resulting in improved sleep patterns. Find out how you can reset your biological clock at home.

Six tips for better sleep

Your first response to sleeplessness should be to ask your oncologist to get you an appointment with a sleep specialist. If that's not possible, then consider these helpful do-it-yourself sleep tips.


Hamel, P. (2007, February 05). Sleep disorders and breast cancer treatment. Retrieved from

Hamel, P. (2007, February 13). Sleepy in Seattle: Sleep aids from behavioral therapy to Rozerem. Retrieved from