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Do You Have a Sleep Disorder?

CancerWise - April 2007

Sleep disorders can disrupt what should be quality time to regenerate and recharge. People undergoing cancer treatment are especially in need of restful sleep.

Many cancer survivors have had sleep disorders for years but are unaware of them; others develop problems as a result of cancer treatment.

Start by asking a few questions

How do you determine if you are just tired or have a problem that merits investigation?

You might have a sleep disorder if you:

  • Have problems falling or staying asleep
  • Sleep restlessly
  • Snore loudly
  • Awaken gasping or choking for breath
  • Have sleep that is disturbed by unusual behaviors such as:
    • Nightmares
    • Sleepwalking
    • Tongue biting
  • Feel tired upon awakening in the morning
  • Fall asleep while driving

Take a quick sleep quiz

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale below can help determine if you might have a problem.

How likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations, in contrast to just feeling tired? This refers to your usual way of life in recent times. Answer “never,” “slight,” “moderate” or “high” to each of the following questions:

What are your chances of dozing off while:

  • Reading?
  • Watching television?
  • Riding in a car as a passenger for an hour?
  • Lying down in the afternoon?
  • Sitting:
    • Inactive in a public place (a theater or meeting)?
    • While talking to someone?
    • After lunch without alcohol?
    • In a car while stopped in traffic a few minutes?

Add your points to determine your total score:

  • Zero for each “never”
  • One for each “slight”
  • Two for each “moderate”
  • Three for each “high”

If your score is higher than eight, you may have a sleep disorder and should consider consulting your physician.

– From staff reports


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center