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Hypersomnia During Cancer Treatment

What is hypersomnia?

A good night's sleep is important for your functioning and well-being. But too much sleep can also be a problem. One side effect of cancer and cancer treatment is sleeping too much. This is called hypersomnia. Hypersomnia that's linked to chemotherapy treatment often improves after treatment ends.

Hypersomnia is different from fatigue. Fatigue is the feeling of being tired, but able to stay awake if you try. If you have hypersomnia, you have trouble staying awake when you want to and try to. You may sleep 10 hours at night, but still can’t stay awake during the day. This sleep problem can be caused by cancer treatments or other medicines.

Symptoms of hypersomnia

You may have hypersomnia if you have these symptoms for 3 weeks or more:

  • 10 hours or more of sleep at night

  • Trouble staying awake during the day despite a full night’s sleep

Managing hypersomnia

If your sleep problem is due to your treatment, your healthcare provider may want to prescribe medicine to help you stay awake. If your sleep problem is due to depression or stress, your provider may prescribe medicine or refer you to a counselor.

These tips may help you manage hypersomnia: 

  • Exercise daily in the morning or early afternoon.

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule, with the same wake-up and bedtime every day.

  • Do things you enjoy that require your full attention.

  • Don't eat heavy meals or foods that make you sleepy during the day.

  • Don't have alcohol or caffeine.

Medical Reviewers:

  • L Renee Watson MSN RN
  • Rita Sather RN
  • Todd Gersten MD