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« Stressed about Stressing | Main | A Healthy Survivor's Thanksgiving »

November 22, 2008


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Ronni Gordon

Hi Wendy,
If I am really stressed or anxious about an upcoming appointment, I find that judicious use of Ativan (Lorazepam) really helps. I am prescribed for 1 mg, but I if I take half a tablet at any point during the evening, I avoid tossing and turning at bedtime. Sometimes I think I fall asleep easier just knowing that because I took something, I don't have to worry about falling asleep. I sometimes avoid taking it because I don't like taking too many drugs...probably other people are like this too, because we think we should "tough it out." I also know that if you take too much, you will need to take higher doses. But I think it makes sense to remember that when appropriate, drugs like these are really useful, of course along with the interventions you have mentioned, plus fresh air and whatever kind of exercise or meditation you are able to do.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD

Dear Ronni,
From your blog, we can see you are a tough-minded athlete who has used this tough-mindedness to your advantage as you've dealt with cancer. So your comment is an especially powerful endorsement of the benefit of the judicious use of physician-prescribed sleep aids. Thanks.
With hope, Wendy

Carl Wilton

Interesting post, Wendy. I've got obstructive sleep apnea, and I've had it for several years, at least, before my cancer diagnosis. I use a BiPap machine (like a CPap) every night and wouldn't be without it. My apnea is so severe that, when lying down and trying to fall asleep, I find it hard to breathe without the machine's assistance.

It makes me wonder, if indeed it's true that sleep deprivation is a risk factor for cancer, whether my apnea could have had anything to do with my developing lymphoma.

It's hard to know, of course - because the causes of NHL are so obscure, and because apnea is still so little-understood. Still, it's an interesting subject to ponder.


Sleep is a funny thing. I rarely get enough of it any more. Before my treatment for HCL, I could sleep 10 hours at a stretch when I needed it (weekends after long weeks of work).

I've never really slept well since my first round of chemo in July. I used Zolpidem (ambien) for a while with some success and found my deeper but, unfortunately, shorter. Only as I have gotten further away from chemo and off the zolpidem that my sleep has gotten around to 8 hours per night. I still long for the times when I could get all the sleep my body needed; maybe soon.

Does a lack of sleep contribute to cancer? I doubt we'll know any time soon; too many other variables and too hard to measure quality of sleep.


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