Dr. Khuzema Fatehi, Surgical Oncologist at SRV Hospitals – Chembur
Mumbai: The number of cancer cases is increasing in all age groups. It is not uncommon to see children detected with cancers anymore. Childhood cancer survivors tend to encounter sleep-related problems. Hence, insomnia and daytime sleepiness as adults are commonly seen as a result owing to emotional stress due to cancer and its treatment. A minimum of 8 hrs of sleep is an absolute must for optimal function. During this time, our body diverts attention to healing and important body functions. For cancer patients specifically, this time is needed to recuperate from effect of cancer and it’s treatment as well.
A cancer diagnosis is upsetting at any age, but particularly so when the patient is a child. The most common types of cancer in children ages 0 to 14 years are leukemias, brain and other central nervous systems (CNS) tumors, and lymphomas. The type of treatment for the child depends on the type of cancer and its stage. Common treatments are in the form of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. There are many side effects of cancer treatments such as poor appetite, constipation, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting, and nausea. Moreover, as childhood cancer survivors may also experience sleep problems as they grow
“Sleep disorders are seen in those detected with cancer. The tumors, treatment, certain drugs, being admitted to the hospital for a long time, stress owing to cancer diagnosis, and other health problems apart from cancer can be unsettling for the child which can invite sleep problems in later life. The common sleep issues reported are insomnia means the inability to fall asleep, sleep apnea wherein the breathing stops while sleeping, hypersomnia is being unable to stay awake during the day and circadian rhythm disorders are issues with the sleep-wake cycle, making you unable to sleep and wake at the right times.”
“Sleep problems are prevalent in children detected with cancer as they become older. They are often linked to pain and distress. One will find it challenging to focus on his/her daily activities. They will not be able to follow instructions, will be fatigued, sleepy, lazy, inactive, irritated, and have trouble making decisions. Tackling disrupted sleep in these survivors can help in enhancing long-term psychological functioning and getting sound sleep at night.”
“To induce sleep, one should practice relaxation techniques such as medication, limit screen time before bed, take a warm shower, keep a peaceful sleep environment and the room should be dark, cut down on caffeine, soak up in the sun, and follow the same sleep and wake-up time. Moreover, exercising on a regular basis can help one get a good sleep at night. But, one will have to exercise under the guidance of a trainer and avoid going overboard.”