Can-Sleep: Improving night-time sleep problems

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

Sleep problems in people with cancer

About 6 in every 10 people with cancer have night-time sleep problems such as insomnia, and these sleep problems often impact well-being and quality of life. The good news is that there are many things that you can do to improve your sleep.

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, such as fatigue, low mood, poor concentration and difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions.

The Can-Sleep service

The Can-Sleep service focuses on cognitive and behavioural methods of improving sleep. Cognitive and behavioural therapy (CBT) is recommended as the first-line treatment for insomnia. It is known to be 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 impact sleep (e.g., sleep habits and routines)
  • emotions that impact sleep

The Can-Sleep service also helps people who may be at risk of medical sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome.

What to expect from Can-Sleep?

When you first attend Can-Sleep, you will be asked to fill in some brief screening questionnaires to help find out what is causing your sleep problems. A Can-Sleep clinician will then discuss best treatment options for you. Can-Sleep treatments include:

  • Self-Help CBT – Can-Sleep has developed a that is made specifically for people with cancer.  You will be advised on which parts of the booklet will be most helpful for you, based on your specific sleep problems.  You can also attend follow-up appointments to help you get the most out of the booklet, and check how your sleep is improving.
  • Group CBT program - Can-Sleep also runs a group CBT program, which 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 4 sessions.
  • Referral – Can-Sleep will screen for medical sleep problems such as sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome. If screening at risk of these problems, you will be offered a referral to a sleep clinic for specialist medical assessment and advice. Can-Sleep is partnered with the Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Who can attend Can-Sleep?

The Can-Sleep service is available for patients of Peter Mac.


Can-Sleep is a no-cost service.

Referral to can-sleep

Speak to your treating team for a referral, or contact the Can-Sleep team directly.

Contacting Can-Sleep

Can-Sleep is run by the Psychology Department. Please ask to speak to one of the Can-Sleep clinicians.

Can-Sleep Podcast

Listen to our Podcast on the Can-Sleep program.

Other sleep websites

Additional Psychosocial Oncology services at Peter Mac

The Psychosocial Oncology Program at Peter Mac provides a range of services for patients and their families. For more information:

Further information, resources and CBT training is for health professionals in supporting cancer patients with sleep difficulties.