A good night’s sleep can be difficult to achieve, whether it be due to life stress, medication side effects, or whirring mind. Part of the anti-nausea medication protocol on chemotherapy includes high-dose steroids, and I’ve found these in particular can interfere with my ability to sleep well at a time when it’s most need.
When you’re up against the effects of medication sometimes you just have to ride it out, but there are also several natural methods you can try to help you relax and drift off.
- Support melatonin – melatonin is one of the hormones that contributes to good sleep, but exposing our eyes to blue spectrum light (found in sunlight but also produced by digital screens and LED lighting) impairs the body’s production. Avoid using devices such as mobile phones, computers and TV after 9pm and ensure your bedroom is properly dark at night. If you have trouble reducing screen time in the evening, you can now buy amber-toned glasses to filter out the blue light. I struggle with this myself, but I’m working on it.
- Wind down with herbal tea – find a relaxing evening blend that you enjoy. My favourites are Higher Living Sweet Dreams tea and chamomile and spearmint (Heath & Heather for organic, or Twinings in supermarkets).
- Relax with a bath – I find Epsom or Dead Sea salts in the bath particularly good. Westlab Epsom salt (£5.99) is an affordable option and widely available in supermarkets, Boots and online. If you can’t manage a bath for whatever reason (I have a PICC line which makes it difficult), a foot bath is a good alternative.
- Transform your bed into a cloud – it’s really important that your bed is comfortable. If your mattress is a little tired but not yet ready to be replaced, consider a mattress topper. I have the the Luxury Soft As Down mattress topper from Soak & Sleep, and it made a big difference even to a new mattress. I also love their French linen bedsheets, which supposedly help your body to better control temperature and also feel really nice against your skin.
- Try aromatherapy – essentials oil sprays and roll-ons are now part of my before bed routine, although scent is highly personal and you may have to try a few blends to find one you love. I found Neom Tranquility Intensive Deep Sleep Treatment particularly good. At £8 for a small rollerball it may seem expensive, but they use the highest quality oils and I found this little vial lasted about six months using it almost every night. I also enjoy This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray (£18), and the Tisserand Sweet Dreams rollerball (£5.95) is another good rollerball if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the Neom one.
- Consider a supplement – magnesium in particular supports the nervous system, but if you’re taking medication do ensure you talk to your doctor first to check it’s safe for you and won’t interact. When choosing a magnesium supplement it’s also a good idea to buy a reputable brand and get some advice from an independent health food shop or supplement company about which type of magnesium to take, as there are quite a few out there. Avoid magnesium oxide as this is poorly absorbed in the intestines, and instead works more as a laxative.
Do you have trouble sleeping? What have you found that helps?