Sleep and prostate cancer – What you need to know

Proper sleep can help men with prostate cancer to recover from treatments and relax. It provides you with the energy your body needs to fight the cancer. There are several things that can keep you awake at night if you’re living with prostate cancer, but also various ways to address sleepless nights now.

Prostate cancer symptoms, like pain and treatment side effects, such as nausea, can keep you from getting enough sleep. The need to go to the toilet frequently and feelings of stress and anxiety can also keep your body and mind from getting the rest it requires.

If sleep is a problem for you, your doctor can perform a series of tests to determine whether you have insomnia. The definition of insomnia is difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s vital that you let your doctor know. Sleep plays a more important role in your health than you may think.

Why you should make good sleep a top priority

“Sleep controls everything in the body, including temperature, memory, mood, weight, hormones, tissue repair and immunity,” says Dr Kevin Rosman, a specialist neurologist at the Morningside Sleep Centre. He explains that a lack of sleep increases blood sugar levels and the chemicals that cause pain.

Too little sleep can depress the immune system and worsen medical conditions such as anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and respiratory disorders.

Your body needs to be as healthy as possible to battle cancer and heal after treatments. Insufficient sleep undoubtedly interferes with this process. The good news is that insomnia can be treated, both with the help of medical professionals and by making certain lifestyle changes.

What you should keep in mind about insomnia treatments

Your doctor will be able to help you address treatment side effects, such as pain and nausea, that can make rest feel impossible. If the reason for your insomnia isn’t clear, you might get referred to a specialist.

Dr Rosman explains there are over 80 different sleep disorders, all of which can present as insomnia. The first issue, he says, is to determine what’s causing your insomnia. From there, a suitable solution can be identified.

“The initial treatment for insomnia is almost never pharmacological,” he says. “Generally, the effect is not maintained, and problems follow.” Your specialist might suggest other ways to tackle sleeplessness, from exercise and relaxation techniques to changes to your daily routine.

If medication is found to be the best treatment, it’s important to ask about potential side effects.

Tips to get better sleep

  • Get active
    Regular exercise can help you sleep better and longer, so find a workout, sport or class that you enjoy and can manage with your current energy levels.
    Once you’ve selected a form of exercise that works for you, be sure to schedule it for early in the day. Working out before you go to sleep can be stimulating and should be avoided for at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Cut down on stimulants
    Caffeine might give you a boost during the day, but it keeps you from being able to recharge properly at night. The same goes for other stimulants such as nicotine and alcohol. The benefits of a good night’s rest far outweigh the fleeting positive emotions that stimulants sometimes produce. Scale back on caffeine and alcohol and if you’re a smoker, speak to your doctor about ways to quit.
  • Create a routine
    If you’re not going to bed and waking at the same time every day, your body needs to be trained to do so. A regular sleep-wake cycle can reduce insomnia. Stick to this routine throughout the week – including weekends.
  • Make bedtime special
    Stimulus control therapy is often used to treat insomnia, and part of this therapy consists of reassociating bedtime and the bedroom with sleep. Keep your bedroom for sleeping, resting and recovering. Use another room for eating and watching television.
  • Tackle stress
    Stress and anxiety can keep you from a good night’s rest. Support from loved ones as well as specialists like psychologists can help you address fear and negative emotions. Try relaxation techniques before bedtime, such as deep breathing and stretching.

There are many ways to tackle sleeplessness. Your healthcare team, family and friends can help you get there. You don’t have to accept insomnia and sleep difficulties as part of life with prostate cancer. Reach out for help and start getting better rest.

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