Your child’s disease and treatments might make her more tired than usual. “Do You Know … Fatigue” has information on this. But there are ways to fight fatigue and help your child feel better. Scientists know that people with cancer feel less tired when they sleep better, save energy, and exercise. This handout gives you ways to help your child do these things.
Ways to help your child sleep better
Sleeping better can help your child feel less tired, or fatigued. You can have your child try the activities below.
- Have a bedtime routine – Such as putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, using the bathroom, reading, and lights out.
- Go to bed at same time every night, and wake up the same time every day.
- Avoid drinks with caffeine in the evening, such as sodas, coffee, or tea. Avoid chocolate, because it also has caffeine.
- Take naps earlier in the day, if your child takes naps. The nap should be less than one (1) hour. If it lasts longer, your child may not sleep as well at night.
- Avoid playing video games or using a mobile phone or tablet in bed. The bright lights might keep your child from falling asleep.
- Keep lights on and blinds open during the day, even in the hospital.
- Do activities that lower stress, such as yoga.
- Take a warm bath before bed.
- Use the bathroom before bed.
Your child can also get help from a psychologist for more tips. Or she may benefit from having a sleep study. Some doctors specialize in sleep problems. If your child feels very sleepy during the day and falls asleep easily when she does not want to, talking to a sleep doctor could help.
Ways to help your child save energy
Cancer and treatment can make your child feel extremely tired. These tips can help save the energy.
- Help your child decide which activities are most important, and do those first. If your child is too young to decide, you choose. Do not try to do too much in one (1) day.Plan your day ahead of time so you do not have to rush. Or have someone else help with errands and other activities.
- Notice the days and times when your child feels most tired and when she feels best. This helps you plan. Your child can do important activities during the times with most energy.
- Spending time with family or friends, listening to music, reading, and playing can help distract your child from feeling tired.
- Have your child stop activities and rest before she gets too tired.
- Have your child sit down during activities, if possible. For example, your child can sit while brushing teeth or hair, making a snack, or getting dressed.
- Use a wheelchair for long trips or activities, if needed.
If your child is still very tired, it might help to talk to an occupational therapist. The therapist can help you find the best ways for your child to save energy.
Ways to exercise to fight fatigue
You might think that exercising would make your child more tired, but this is not true. Scientists know that people with cancer who were tired but did regular moderate exercise, felt better than people with cancer who did not do these things. The people with cancer felt better in these ways:
- Felt less tired
- Felt better emotionally
- Slept better
- Felt better overall
If your child is having treatment
Some types of exercise that can fight fatigue during active treatment include:
- Jumping rope,
- Riding a bike,
- Playing tennis,
- Dancing, and
A good goal is about 20 minutes of exercise each day, or more if your child feels well enough. At first, your child might not be able to exercise for 20 minutes. So a few minutes a day is OK. With time, your child could get stronger and exercise longer. Talk to the doctor if you are concerned about how much your child can do.
If your child is done with active treatment
If your child is done with active treatment, she should try to exercise about 60 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The types of exercise above are good. Your child can also try swimming, strength training with resistance bands, or yoga.
Before your child starts exercising
Ask your child’s doctor if exercise is safe. You can also ask how much exercise is good and what kind. A physical therapist might be able to help design the right exercise program to help fight fatigue.
If you have questions about helping your child fight fatigue, talk to a member of your child’s St. Jude health care team.
This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.
St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
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