Why is sleep important for childhood cancer survivors?

Developing good sleep habits during childhood and teen years is important, especially for survivors of childhood cancer. Sometimes poor sleep habits that developed because of cancer treatment persist years after treatment is over. Problems that may interfere with good quality sleep include:

  • Daytime napping
  • Bed sharing with parents
  • Spending time in bed doing things other than sleeping, such as watching TV, playing video games, or looking at a tablet or phone
  • Going to bed late and getting up late

Sleep provides important benefits for children and teens, including:

  • Lowering stress and improving mood
  • Helping maintain or achieve a healthy weight
  • Improving coordination and athletic performance
  • Increasing ability to pay attention and academic performance

Lack of sleep is associated with poor outcomes, including:

  • Obesity, diabetes and heart disease
  • Mood swings, anxiety and depression
  • Poor immune system functioning
  • Attention and learning difficulties

How much sleep should my childhood cancer survivor be getting?

Sleep needs vary by age group. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following targets:

If your child is hard to wake up in the morning or remains sleepy throughout the day, they most likely need more sleep than they are getting. To increase nighttime sleep, start by moving bedtime back by 15 minutes each night until you find the right balance for your child.

Tips to help your child sleep better

  1. Aim for 60 minutes of being active each day.
  2. Cut out caffeine altogether or a least between noon and bedtime.
  3. Turn off all screens at least one hour before bedtime. This includes TVs, computers, tablets and phones.
  4. Create a sleep-healthy environment, which includes a cool, quiet, dark room. Keep all screens out of the bedroom—parents can take possession of phones, tablets and laptops at bedtime if needed.
  5. Follow a routine each night before bedtime. This may include taking a bath, reading books and turning the lights out.
  6. Stick to the schedule, even on weekends.