- Question from AMS: Since my diagnosis and subsequent surgery, I can fall asleep easily, but during the night I wake up at least once an hour. I have learned meditation techniques, and can usually get back to sleep within a few minutes, but the fact that my sleep is so very interrupted means that I never feel rested. The thing that is waking me up is sheer unadulterated fear. I am not bothered by the fear during the day and can pray it away during the day.
- Answers - Helena Schotland Some people have anxiety that manifests itself primarily at night. They may not feel particularly anxious during the day, but they can have night terrors, nightmares, and anxiety that causes them to wake up that sometimes can prevent them from falling back to sleep. The anxiety should be addressed primarily. The insomnia is a result of the anxiety.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. At night time, you are without all the distractions during the day, and the feeling can be like an IMAX theatre playing all of the scary parts. For some people who get in a bad habit of worrying at night in their bedroom, the bedroom becomes a toxic place, heavily associated with this type of negative pattern. Sometimes it's worth trying to break the cycle by moving into another bedroom with your partner (it's not worth disrupting your closest relationship during an extended period of time by moving by yourself. Invite your partner to come with you.) Then, after a few months, you might be ready to move back into your bedroom. It's probably worth rearranging furniture, treating yourself to a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and doing a little decoration, so that your bedroom once again feels like a safe place to have some great sleep. Moving forward, how do you set rules about going to sleep or having sex at the end of the night? Setting limits, as well as creating opportunities in a way that allows you to get both done?
- Helena Schotland Basically, it's really making time for yourself and making time for your partner. We spend our days rushing around, doing a lot of different things. When we're going through treatment for breast cancer, our days are even more complicated than they normally would be. So you want to give yourself a break. You want to give yourself the luxury of time. Do something for yourself, do something good for your partner. And again, what you really want to do is take the pressure off yourself.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. What about kids in the bed?
- Helena Schotland I am not at all for the family bed. It can provide a huge disruption to the parents, and kids don't learn to sleep on their own if they're sleeping with Mom and Dad every night. If a little one has a nightmare or is sick in the middle of the night, there are certainly exceptions. But those should be fairly rare.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Sleep Well: Healthy Habits for Good Rest featured Helena Schotland, M.D. and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about ways to improve your sleep.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in January 2007.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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