Your answer may have deeper implications than simple tiredness or lack of concentration. In fact, lack of sleep could be linked to the development of cancer cells in your body.
In 2003, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston found a correlation between risk of breast cancer and melatonin, a hormone produced by the body to promote continued sleep. When levels of melatonin decrease, the body produces more estrogen, which is a known risk factor for breast cancer.
Since 2003, other studies have examined the relationship between sleep and other cancers. Prostate cancer is yet another that has been linked to sleep issues. In fact, moderate problems with sleep have been shown to raise the risk of prostate cancer twofold, and men with severe sleep problems are three times as likely to develop cancer as men who get adequate sleep each night.
Barriers to Sleep: Cancer Treatment and Anxiety
Beyond the obvious reasons to sleep regularly and well (better mood, healthier immune system, stronger mental capacity), we now know that regular, positive sleeping habits can help fight the development and spread of major illnesses, including cancer. Proper sleep may even improve chances of cancer remission, which is a great blessing after an unwelcome diagnosis.
The difficulty patients face is that the treatments and anxiety that come with cancer contribute to poor sleep, which can develop into sleeping problems. That’s why it’s essential to maintain the best sleeping habits possible when you’re ill with cancer.
If you do have trouble sleeping, try these tips to help you rest better:
- Develop a regular pre-sleep routine that helps to calm you
- Avoid excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption
- Find time for daily exercise
- Try relaxation techniques, like meditation or yoga
I cannot stress enough the importance of getting your needed rest every night, especially as it is now clear that sleep patterns can impact cancer growth and development. It is worrying to know that sleep problems can contribute to a higher cancer risk. But it’s also heartening to know that those who are at risk of developing cancer can help ward it off with and effective sleep regimen. The better you sleep, the stronger your immune system and the more balanced your body chemistry. With your hormone levels in balance, your ability to fight off developing cancer cells increases exponentially, especially in the case of breast and prostate cancer.
By Eric Cohen, MD