NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s a class to help cancer survivors, but it’s not to teach them to eat healthy or get regular checkups: It’s to help them sleep better!

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez says that’s an important part of beating cancer.

We keep hearing that we’re a sleep-deprived nation. Insomnia is a health risk for everyone, but especially for cancer survivors. Turns out, many cancer survivors have trouble falling or staying asleep.

Now research shows a new approach can help them get a good night’s rest.

Ken Giacoppo has long struggled with insomnia, and since being diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago, it has gotten worse.

“I’m just fatigued constantly, all the time during the day, so I take cat naps,” he said.

But all those naps can make insomnia worse, plus the stress of having cancer and the grueling treatments can also impact patients’ sleep.

“These are all insults to the system that may disrupt sleep that, in the short term, people cope with reasonably well. But then, as they persist… the consequences of insufficient sleep or fragmented sleep are very real,” said Eric Zhou, PhD of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

So Giacoppo is taking a sleep education class for cancer survivors at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The class covers well-known tips, such as no screen time before bed, and napping less once you’ve completed treatment. Dr. Zhou says the key is giving patients guidance on actually implementing good sleep hygiene.

“A consistent wake time is a very important part of fundamental element of good sleep,” Dr. Zhou said. “These are the kinds of things we sat down, analyzed and broke down for each individual survivor.”

A new study of more than 50 cancer patients finds over 40% had their moderate-to-severe insomnia cured after one class.

Giacoppo plans to use what he’s learned at home.

“I can’t get anything done I’m so tired, so I’m hoping that this is going to help out just a small part of my life,” he said.

He says a better night’s sleep will mean better time spent with family.

For more about the study, see the Dana-Farber website.


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