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  • Clare Reed CBT Therapist

Steroids Keeping You Awake During Chemo?

It is one of the most well-known facts that plenty of rest is essential for overcoming Cancer. So why is it that Prednisone and Dexamethasone get prescribed just when we need our rest most - during Chemotherapy? These two steroids, and others like them, are the antithesis to a good night’s sleep.

What to do if Steroids Keep you Awake During Cancer Treatment
What to do if Steroids Keep you Awake During Cancer Treatment

A shocking 82% of chemotherapy patients are sleep deprived on the nights before chemo and the night of chemo. Most lay awake fatefully waiting for morning to come along so they can get up and go again. It’s akin to being forcefully sleep deprived. On one hand you have all this energy that is going to waste, due to the adrenal glands being switched on by the steroids, akin to a feeling described as like being on the recreational drug 'speed'! On the other hand you know you need to sleep for your health’s sake. So, what can you do?

Fortunately, 11 years ago, I trained in hypnotherapy. And although, as a CBT therapist, I don’t have time to practice hypnotherapy anymore, I still use what I learnt in my hypnotherapy training, now and again. One of the most useful things I learnt was about sound waves and how they can be used to change our mind’s state.

These sound waves elicit different effects in the body, as there are five sound waves that we produce. Gamma waves are used in high states of concentration. Beta waves motivate us and make us alert. Alpha waves go from a relaxed state but alert to deeply relaxed. Theta waves produces REM (rapid eye movement) light sleep and Delta waves make us feel like we have been unconsciously asleep and puts us into a deep dreamless sleep.

90 Minute Sleep Cycle
90 Minute Sleep Cycle

How Different Sound Waves Work

When you think about the 90-minute sleep cycle, in the falling asleep phase it is usually Alpha waves being produced by the mind, as we become deeply relaxed. These turn into Theta waves (REM sleep). Then slow Delta waves are produced in unconscious sleep, before moving back to Theta waves and then on to produce Alpha waves when we finally wake. These are the cycles we naturally move through.

There are extensive recordings available to us on YouTube, i-Tunes, Soundcloud etc. and available from different sources on the internet. They mimic the 90-minute sleep pattern often starting off with Alpha waves, then Theta waves, Delta waves, back to Theta waves and finally Alpha waves. Look out for Binaural wave effects too, as these stimulate the right and left side of your brain for best effect. Isochronic tones are comparatively ‘the new kid on the block’ and are still a work in progress compared to Binaural sound effects. I expect Isochronic tones to improve and eventually 'succeed’ Binaural wave tones in future years.

Delta Waves As A Solution For Steroid Sleep Deprivation

We can use Binaural recordings of Delta waves as the solution for steroid sleep deprivation, or for any sleepless night. Using Delta waves sound effects for an hour is the equivalent of 5 hours good sleep. Happy nights! You will feel rested after just one hour of Delta waves, even if you don’t fall asleep! And after 2 hours of Delta waves your mind will thank you!

The best time of day to use these is after lunch, if you aren’t at work. Siesta time! Or on the nights you take the steroids, and find yourself wide awake, you can allow your mind to switch off with a couple of hours of Delta waves. I used to play them during corticosteroid use at 4am, when I had given up on sleep, and wanted to feel rested and they were hugely useful to my energy levels during the following day.

Quick Tip

I don’t advocate using all night recordings of 8-9 hours in length, of which there are plenty available, as they can turn into a ‘crutch’ to get to sleep and stay asleep, which, in my opinion, isn’t naturally the best result you are looking for. These recordings are simply to be used in times of need, such as taking corticosteroids or anxiety fuelled sleepless nights.

Use Headphones and lie down when using Sound Waves
Use Headphones and lie down when using Sound Waves

Sources of Delta Sound Waves

The good news is that YouTube provides lots of excellent Binaural Delta Sound Waves videos. You don’t watch the video’s, you just listen via your headphones and lie back with your eyes closed and let the sound waves do their work.

Here are some sound wave recordings I have personally used with the most wonderful restful results:

Zen Life Relax:

Meditation Relax Club

Here is one with Isochronic tones - it sounds a bit spooky at first but when you get used to it it's very effective!

Give them a go and see for yourself. You can change the recording every few weeks, as they can stop being so effective, as your mind gets used to them.

Let me know how you get on.


Do not use sound wave recordings while driving, cycling or operating machinery. The best form of use is lying in bed with headphones on or in a comfy reclining chair.

CBT for Cancer helps people being treated for Cancer and for Cancer Carers. I use cognitive behavioural techniques to keep the mind and body calm so you can be ready for any challenge that lies ahead. For more information go to

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