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Problem with sleeping

Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2006

I have had 30 radiation treatments for throat cancer. I have survived the daytime mucous battle but I haven't been so lucky with the nightime battle. I fall asleep very quickly but I am awaken in 3 to 4 hrs by the mucous build up in my throat which makes it difficult to breath. I drink ginger ale to help break up the mucous but there is so much of it and the fact that I can't spit it up and I have to dig it out with paper towels takes a long time and after doing this for a hour or more, I find it very difficult to fall asleep again.
If any body shares my dilemma, please contact me with any possible solutions. I am very tired all the time and could sure use some help. Thank you and God bless all you survivors who read this.

Posts: 9
Joined: Jul 2006


I'm 9 years out from radiation, but had similar problems like yours.

I always used warm water to break up the mucous. Of course the first time I put it in my mouth it doesn't do much. You have to use your fingers to get it out because it's so thick. I just kept repeating the procedure until I got my mouth relatively free of the mucous.

I use biotene mouthwash (for dry mouth). May be too strong for your sensitive mouth now, but try it later if it doesn't help now.

If you can sleep on your right or left side, the mucous will not accumulate as much impeding your breathing when you go back to sleep.

I know, in the middle of the night, it was sometimes frightening trying to get back to sleep when it's hard to breathe.

If it's impossible to get back to sleep, could you fall asleep in a chair like a lazy boy.

Sitting up doesn't seem to be as bad as lying down.

Hang in there, it does get better. The mucous gradually get thinner and thinner and eventually you will be able to live with it. Right now it seems overbearing

Best Wishes

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

I had surgery for tongue and neck cancer, and so had problems swallowing as well as the mucous problem you describe. I know where you are coming from: for me, it was like an alarm clock every two hours! I wish that I had a solution for you. One idea you must be aware of is those little foam squares on sticks (they look like lollipops): they are much more efficienct and comfortable than paper towels and can be used more than once. I must tell you this: it does not end just because the treatment ends. As others have suggested, it does get better, but don't count on it stopping all of a sudden just because the treatment ends. Eventually, my friend, you will be back to your old self. Patience and determination are key. Best wishes.

Posts: 7
Joined: Oct 2006

Same issue here. It was resolved by taking Mucinex (guaifenesin). Please check with you oncologist before taking this and other over the counter meds. It helps thin out saliva/mucous.
Oh, and be sure to increase your water intake!!!

Posts: 8
Joined: Apr 2007

Hi, get a room humidifier. get rid of cotton & wool blankets or any bedding & clothes that's dusty. Sleeping bags and nylon clothes for now. Snif water in your nose till water is in your mouth, then blow it all out your nose. Kepp your nose wet this way. I had NPC 10/1999. I have osteonecrosis now and Can't have any teeth pulled or I'll possibly die of infection. So keep away from sugar sweet soda drinks. Drink green tea. Sleep sittin upright, proped up w/ pillows, not horizontal. If you can swallow, make milk shakes; 1 1/2 cup milk, 1 banana, 1 strawberry, 1 teaspoon peanut butter, 1 teaspoon cocoa powder. drink fruit and veggie juices, Odwalla drinks at the supermarket. Brush w/ Colgate Total 2 times a day, cheaper than Prevident.
Blender milk w/ can of gravy. Your mucus, hard snot, is the result of loosing your bodys way of making nasal fluids & no more saliva. You need liquids now. The Odwalla apple/carrot drink, add 1 cup of water. Keep hydrated as much as possible. I had 2 months of rads = 40 days. And 2 months of cisplatin. Followed w/ 6 mths 5FU. I have 50% hearing loss now. I had 3 months to live and I'm alive. But no one ever told what to eat or drink or how to stay healhy, I was expected to die. Stay hydrated w/ juices.

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