A Calgary-based study is helping cancer patients deal with a side effect of their diagnosis that is often left untreated.

Many cancer patients, like Kent Parlee, suffer from insomnia. Parlee has leukemia. On top of the stressful diagnosis, and then chemotherapy treatment, he developed insomnia.

He says prior to the treatments and during the treatments he was getting only two to three hours of sleep per night.

Sheila Garland, a clinical psychologist from the University of Calgary, says insomnia is a serious problem that affects 30-50 per cent of cancer patients.

"Problems sleeping are an under-recognized problem," commented Garland.

Cancer patients may be reluctant to use any sleeping medications, often because they're already using many other prescription drugs.

Garland is conducting a study to determine which behavioural techniques, such as relaxation exercises, work to help treat insomnia.

Participants wear sleep watches at the beginning of the study to accurately measure the amount of sleep they get.

In the beginning, the participants usually get two to three hours of sleep a night. After learning natural methods of improving their sleep, Garland says participants usually increase the amount of sleep they get to around six hours.

Parlee says those extra few hours make all the difference to his well-being.

"Once I've got the sleep that I need, physically I'm ready to tackle the day and fight the cancer," commented Parlee.

For more information on enrollment in the sleep study, you can call 1-877-SLEEP40 (1-877-753-3740).