Mr. M. had been diagnosed with mesothelioma a month ago, and he was preparing for surgery. An issue that seemed to be effecting his quality of life was insomnia. He had difficulty falling asleep and once he did he woke up several times a night then had difficulty getting back to sleep. As a result, he was “exhausted” all the time, had little energy, and both he and his wife felt he was depressed. What can he do to improve his sleep hygiene?
Insomnia is a common health complaint. It is estimated that insomnia affects up to 50% of people after being diagnosed with cancer. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People who suffer from insomnia usually have difficulty falling asleep, wake up often during the night, have trouble going back to sleep, wake up too early in the morning, or feel tired upon waking.
Insomnia and subsequent sleep disturbances can have undesirable effects on patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. In some cases, it can lead to fatigue and mood disturbances, but of most concern is that it can contribute to immuno-suppression. A mesothelioma patient needs to boost their immune system to help fight the disease. If you are not sleeping, it can lead to feeling fatigued during the day, and if you are fatigued, your immune system is compromised. The key to finding the appropriate treatment for insomnia is to understand what is causing it in the first place. Is pain an issue? Untreated pain can affect a night’s sleep as well as anxiety or depression.
When a mesothelioma patient has insomnia it is important to bring it to the attention of the patient’s care team. Together, they can develop a plan to treat or manage insomnia. Just like there are many causes for insomnia, there are many treatments that include combining medication with other therapies.
Mr. M was depressed and was in pain. Both can be treated once they are identified. Relaxation tapes and seeing a counselor to talk about the impact of the diagnosis on him and his loved ones were both recommended. Pain medication was added to the treatment, and he began to see the results and feel better.
With a diagnosis of mesothelioma it is very important that you don’t minimize the problems that you are facing. If the issue is affecting your health, no matter how small you think it is, tell your medical team. There are therapies that can work. There is help and it can help improve your quality of life.
If you are interested in reading and learning more about this, or if you have any question about any aspect of your mesothelioma care, please email me at [email protected].
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