Dealing with Fatigue & Difficulty Sleeping

How can bladder cancer cause issues with sleep and fatigue?

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness and lack of energy that generally does not go away after sleeping or resting.1-3 Fatigue is a very common symptom experienced by patients with cancer, affecting around 70% to 80% of patients. Fatigue can be caused by the cancer itself or by treatments for the cancer.

Problems related to sleep are also very common among people who are diagnosed and treated for cancer. These issues can include problems falling asleep and staying asleep. Patients may wake up many times during the night and find it difficult to go back to sleep.

The effect of cancer in the body can cause fatigue and sleep disturbances. Treatments that are commonly needed by bladder cancer patients—such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy—can cause fatigue and problems related to sleep.

What is the impact of these problems?

Fatigue and sleep disturbances often improve or go away after treatment, but the process can take a long time.1-3 Many patients return to their normal energy levels in 6-12 months after treatment, but other patients take a longer time than that to recover.

Both fatigue and sleep disturbances can be very disruptive to a patient’s life. It can impact a person’s ability to work and therefore reduce his or her income. It can also impact a person’s ability to take part in hobbies or activities they enjoy, as well as normal day-to-day activities like shopping, cooking, and personal care.

These symptoms can also affect personal relationships. Patients who are fatigued and have sleep disturbances may not have the energy to talk or visit with friends and family. They may also feel sad, depressed, and isolated. Some patients may feel that their healthcare providers, friends, and family do not understand or sympathize with what they are going through with the symptoms of fatigue and sleep disturbances.

How can I manage fatigue and sleep disturbances?

If you are experiencing symptoms of fatigue and sleep disturbances, talk with your healthcare providers about how you are feeling and the impact of those symptoms on your life.1,2 There are potential ways to help manage and improve the symptoms.

Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help to increase your energy levels and reduce fatigue. It can also be very helpful to develop a routine of light or moderate exercise. This may seem difficult to do if you are feeling very tired, but exercise has been shown to help reduce fatigue caused by cancer. Taking short rest periods throughout the day can also improve your overall energy levels.

There are many strategies you can use that may help to improve your ability to go to sleep and to sleep soundly through the night. Some of these tips include:

  • Try to make your bedroom as comfortable, calm, and quiet as possible
  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
  • Develop a routine for relaxing every night before going to sleep, which might include reading a book, listening to music, or taking a bath
  • Limit your intake of caffeinated drinks, especially in the afternoon and evening
  • Limit your intake of alcoholic drinks
  • Have a light snack before bedtime
  • If you take naps during the day, try to limit them to less than 45 minutes
Written by Anna Nicholson | Last review date: September 2017.
View References
  1. What is cancer fatigue? Cancer Research UK. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/fatigue/what-is-cancer-fatigue. Accessed September 2017.
  2. Treating cancer fatigue. Cancer Research UK. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/fatigue/treating-cancer-fatigue. Accessed September 2017.
  3. Fiorentino L, Ancoli-Israel S. Sleep Dysfunction in Patients with Cancer. Current treatment options in neurology. 2007;9(5):337-346.