Pain, fatigue and nausea are all common side effects of cancer treatment, including systemic therapy for mesothelioma. Chemotherapy, for instance, takes a mighty toll on the body due to attacking diseased and healthy cells.

All of these physical side effects – and even mental ones, like anxiety – can lead to sleep deprivation, which is a common occurrence for cancer patients.

Dr. Sean Smith, Medical Director for the Michigan Medicine Cancer Rehabilitation program, said between 33% and 50% of cancer patients have trouble sleeping. This issue arises during a treatment regimen – such as in between cycles of chemotherapy – and after treatment ends.

Patients wake up regularly or even develop sleep apnea, a medical condition characterized by irregular breathing while asleep.

Here are three of the ways Dr. Smith and the Michigan Medicine team suggest battling sleep issues. You can find all five at the article on their website, which is linked in the sources section below.



Medication is one way to help patients sleep longer. There are many well-known sleep medicines for patients needing to get at least seven consistent hours of rest. We suggest talking with your physician before starting any over-the-counter medications.

Dr. Smith recommends trazodone and mirtazapine, the latter known by the brand name Remeron.



Exercise helps strengthen the body and increase energy, both of which are good for fighting cancer. Exercise also helps the body rest. However, it can be cyclical.

Cancer patients feeling fatigued – possibly fatigued from a lack of sleep – won’t want to exercise, Dr. Smith said, and patients who don’t exercise might not sleep well the next night either. The best way to break this cycle is mustering enough strength and motivation for a 30- or 60-minute workout.


Fewer Naps

Naps during the day feel great, especially for cancer patients. People with mesothelioma should limit daytime naps, though, because they can confuse the body’s sleep clock.

Dr. Smith suggests having just one or two naps, keeping them short, and following a regular bedtime routine. This helps the body and mind become accustomed to falling asleep at the same time – and in the same manner.


Other Tips for Mental and Physical Health During Mesothelioma Treatment

If you have other questions or need medical guidance during treatment, reach out to our staff. Our registered nurse, Karen Ritter, is a cancer survivor herself. She can provide her firsthand insight from her battle with ovarian cancer and offer tips from her medical background.

Email Nurse Karen at if you have questions about coping with the side effects and hurdles of mesothelioma treatment.

    Sources & Author

Devin Goldan image

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.

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