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Improving Your Sleep During Your Hospital Stay

This information will help you improve your sleep during your hospital stay.

Sleeping well at night can make you feel better and give you more energy. It can also help you fight off infections and heal your wounds.

Some patients have problems sleeping while they are in the hospital. Disruptions to your natural sleep patterns can be caused by:

Lighting in the room

  • Lighting is too bright during the night.
  • Lighting is too dark during the day.

Treatments and procedures during the night, such as:

  • Taking vital signs.
  • Drawing blood and doing other tests.
  • Giving out medications.
  • Caring for your roommate.

Side effects of medications, such as:

  • Medications that keep you from falling asleep.
  • Medications that make you sleepy (ie, pain medications).

Symptoms related to your cancer or treatment, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom

If you have trouble sleeping through the night or you feel tired the next day, try the suggestions below.

During the Day

Keep the room light

  • Raise your shades in the morning. It will help your body know what time of the day it is.

Get as much physical activity as you can during the day

  • Participate in physical therapy.
  • Participate in activities offered in the Patient Recreation Pavilion on M15.
  • Walk laps around the hospital floor.
  • Do exercises in your bed or chair.

Limit your napping

  • Nap only 30 to 45 minutes at a time during the day.
  • Limit your number of naps, even after a poor night of sleep. Napping during the day can cause you to have trouble sleeping the next night.

Speak to your doctor or nurse

  • Ask your doctor or nurse if any changes can be made to your medication schedule so that you are not woken up during the night to take medication.

Contact the MSK Integrative Medicine Service

At Bedtime

Limit food and drinks

  • Avoid caffeine after noon.
  • Finish eating dinner 3 hours before you want to go to sleep.

Take your sleep medication at the best time

  • If you take sleep medication, ask your nurse to bring it to you 1 hour before you want to go to sleep.
  • You should take your sleep medication between 9:00 pm and midnight, so you are not sleepy the next day.

Do a relaxation activity just before going to sleep

Try any of the following:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Massage
  • Listening to music
  • Reading

Keep your room dark

  • Lower the blackout window shades.
  • Close the curtains.
  • Turn off the TV and computer screens.
  • Use an eye mask.

Keep the room quiet

  • Silence your cell phone after 10:00 pm.
  • If you must keep the TV on, use earphones so you do not disturb your roommate.
  • Ask all visitors and family members (unless they are spending the night) to go home at 8:00 pm.
  • Use earplugs.
  • Listen to white noise,  such as a CD with ocean sounds.
  • Turn to channel 11 on the TV in your room for peaceful scenery and sounds.

Ease your mind

  • If you can't get your mind off of your worries, make a list of things you are worried about. Then, write down what you can do to decrease that worry. For example, you may ask your doctor about a symptom or talk about your fears with a friend or family member. Tell yourself that you will do those things the next day.
  • If you cannot fall asleep, get up and take a short walk. You can also try a light activity, such as reading a book or doing a crossword puzzle for 30 minutes. Then, do a relaxation activity.

It can be helpful to bring some things from home to help you sleep and feel more comfortable. These items can include:

  • Earplugs
  • Eye mask
  • Earphones
  • Bathrobe
  • Slippers
  • Pillow

Deep Breathing Exercise

Deep breathing is an exercise that can help you relax. It is very simple, and you can teach it to yourself. It can help you clear your mind, release tension, and sleep better. You can do it any time you feel stressed or anxious.

  1. Get into a comfortable position in a chair or in your bed. Raise your head as much as possible.
  2. Place one hand on your stomach, just below your ribs. If you are right handed, use your right hand; if you are left handed, use your left hand.
  3. Exhale completely through your mouth.
  4. If you can, close your eyes and inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Feel your stomach push up on your hand. Imagine that air is filling your whole body from the bottom up.
  5. Pause for a couple of seconds. Then, exhale slowly through your mouth or nose. Try to exhale completely and imagine the air leaving your lungs, mouth, or nose.
  6. As you exhale, allow your body to relax and go limp—like a rag doll.
  7. Repeat the exercise 5 to 10 times.