The Can-Sleep service helps people with cancer improve night-time sleep problems

About six in every 10 people with cancer have night-time sleep problems. These problems include insomnia. Sleep problems often affect well-being and quality of life. The good news is that there are many things that you can do to improve your sleep, including using the Can-Sleep service. 

Sleep problems may include: 

  • Difficulties falling asleep 
  • Difficulties staying asleep 
  • Difficulties getting back to sleep 
  • Early waking 
  • Sleep that doesn’t feel refreshing 

People with poor sleep may also experience a range of daytime problems. These problems include:

  • Fatigue 
  • Low mood 
  • Poor concentration  
  • Difficulty thinking or making decisions

The Can-Sleep service 

This service focuses on cognitive and behavioural methods of improving sleep. We recommend Cognitive and behavioural therapy (CBT) as the first-line treatment for insomnia. It is as helpful as medications in the short-term, and better than medications in the longer term. 

CBT for sleep focuses on: 

  • Thoughts and beliefs about sleep (cognitions) 
  • Behaviours that affect sleep (for example, sleep habits and routines) 
  • Emotions that affect sleep 

This service also helps people who may be at risk of medical sleep disorders. These disorders include sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome. 

What to expect from Can-Sleep? 

We will ask you to fill in some screening questionnaires when you first attend Can-Sleep. This helps us find out what is causing your sleep problems. A clinician will then discuss the best treatment options for you. Can-Sleep treatments include: 

Self-Help CBT 

We have developed a CBT self-help booklet for people with cancer. We will tell you which parts of the booklet will be most helpful for you, based on your specific sleep problems. You can also attend follow-up appointments. These appointments will help you get the most out of the booklet and check how your sleep is improving. 

Group CBT program 

We also run a group CBT program. This program is suitable for some people with insomnia. You will attend a pre-group appointment to make sure the program is right for you. The group runs over four sessions. 


We will screen for medical sleep problems. These problems include sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome. We may find you are at risk of these problems. If so, we will offer you a referral to a sleep clinic for specialist medical assessment and advice. Can-Sleep partners with the Royal Melbourne Hospital's Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine. 

Who can attend Can-Sleep? 

This service is available for all our patients. 


This is a no-cost service. 

Referral to Can-Sleep 

Speak to your treating team for a referral or contact our team. 

Contacting Can-Sleep 

The Psychology Department runs Can-Sleep. Please ask to speak to one of the Can-Sleep clinicians. 

  • Phone: (03) 8559 5265  
  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

Can-Sleep podcast 

Listen to our Podcast on the Can-Sleep program. 

Other sleep websites 

More psychosocial oncology services at Peter Mac 

Our Psychosocial Oncology Program supplies a range of services. These are available for patients and their families. For more information: 

  • Psychosocial-oncology website  
  • Phone: (03) 8559 5265  
  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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