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Cancer Sleep Clinic

Research suggests cancer patients are three times more likely to have trouble sleeping than those who don't have cancer. Some sleep problems can last even after cancer treatments have ended. 1, 2

Cancer-Related Sleep Problems

Common sleep problems include:

  • Trouble falling asleep.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night or very early in the morning.
  • Feeling tired during the day.

This lack of sleep can affect a person's pain sensitivity and overall health and cause:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration

The Cancer Sleep Clinic helps cancer patients, caregivers, and family members improve their sleep.

Causes of Cancer-Related Sleep Problems

Sleep problems tend to begin during cancer treatment, but they can also evolve into a disorder of their own.

Many factors can cause sleep problems, including:

  • Certain types of cancer and treatments.
  • Drugs.
  • Physical symptoms, such as pain and nausea.
  • Emotional responses, such as anxiety.

What to Expect at the Cancer Sleep Clinic

Your first visit to the clinic will involve a detailed interview to learn more about your:

  • Sleep patterns
  • Daily routines
  • Diet
  • Medicines
  • Stressors

We may ask you to track your sleep activity by keeping a sleep log at home or wearing a special watch that detects movement.

Treatment at the Cancer Sleep Clinic

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center designed the clinic to address sleep problems in cancer patients, and their loved ones, by using behavioral treatments. These treatments may be more effective and cause fewer side effects — with longer-lasting benefits — than taking drugs alone.

Treatment at the clinic is brief.

Our sleep specialists will work with you to:

  • Find factors that affect your sleep.
  • Assess medications.
  • Provide behavioral treatments to improve your sleep and daytime functioning.
  • Prevent sleep problems from getting worse.
  • Reduce sleep problems during hospitalization.

We'll tailor a treatment plan to address your specific sleep problem. These may include different behavioral and cognitive techniques.

Depending on the nature of your sleep problem, other specialists in the program may become involved in the treatment plan. We may also refer you to a sleep doctor if you have signs of movement or breathing-related sleep disorders.

Our Cancer Sleep Clinic Experts

Contact the Cancer Sleep Clinic

To schedule a sleep evaluation, call 412-623-5888. Ask to speak to Amy Lowery, PhD, behavioral sleep specialist.

Hillman Cancer Center
5115 Centre Ave., Suite 140
Pittsburgh, PA 15232


1 Ancoli-Israel S, Roth T. (1999). Characteristics of insomnia in the United States: results of the 1991 National Sleep Foundation Survey. Sleep, 22, S347-353.

2 Savard J et al. (2011). Natural course of insomnia comorbid with cancer: an 18-month longitudinal study. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 29, 3580-3586.