Boost your sleep to boost cancer survival

How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Women are notorious for functioning on way too little. Some even wear it as a badge of courage. Well, it’s time to take note about the importance of sleep.

But not just how much you get. The quality of the sleep you get now, may help you survive breast cancer later…

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health. 1 Anything less, on a consistent basis, sets you up for poor health. And if snoring is part of your sleep problem, it can also affect your chances of surviving breast cancer — before you’ve even been diagnosed.

Past study of the relationship between sleep and cancer survival in humans has been limited. But mouse models have shown that chronic sleep problems may contribute to accelerated tumor growth and shortened cancer survival.

This latest study, however, was a group comprised of 21,230 women diagnosed with a first primary invasive cancer during follow-up from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a longitudinal study of postmenopausal women.

And the dangerous connection they found between sleep and cancer in these women is not all that surprising: The adverse effect of poor sleep on inflammatory pathways may be a contributing factor in the development and progression of cancer.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Inflammation is the root of disease.

But not only can it play a part in making your body more prone to cancer, years of poor sleep and snoring prior to going through cancer can weigh heavily on your survival outcome. Here’s how the lead author of the study, Amanda Phipps, assistant professor in epidemiology at the University of Washington, explains it…

“We were surprised to see that snoring, especially in combination with short sleep duration, had such a strong association with cancer survival for certain cancer types. To our knowledge, snoring has not previously been evaluated in relation to cancer survival, but our results suggest that it could be an important consideration.”

But she also adds this very important statement…

“Unlike so many things that can impact cancer risk and cancer prognosis, sleep is something that an individual can potentially control. Our results provide yet another reason to make quality sleep a priority.”

Could you agree more? Much of what goes into my body, as well as what I do with my body — in regard to exercise—is in consideration of keeping it healthy and disease free. Now, sleep has just moved up several notches on my “how to avoid cancer” list.

Snoring can be difficult to tackle. If you snore due to sleep apnea, and the CPAP machine is not working out for you, Dr. Cutler has posted some suggestions here.

If you need help getting at least seven hours of quality sleep, the following tips from colleague Dr. Mark Wiley may help:

Set your sleep/wake cycle: The first way to fight insomnia is to establish a set sleep and wake schedule. Studies show the optimal time to sleep is 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. In time, your body and mind will begin to naturally adjust to the new cycle. And once the body is in the habit of shutting down and revving up at the same time each day, insomnia often ceases.

No sugar or caffeine after 6:00 p.m.: Foods and beverages containing refined sugars and caffeine create short-term energy bursts in the body that can wake you up or make your mind race when you need to be sleeping. It takes a few hours for your body to metabolize sugars and caffeine, in many cases, so not consuming any after 6 p.m. is preferable.

No exercise or continuous physical activity after 7 p.m.: Exercising or engaging in laborious work late in the evening also stimulates the body. These activities spur the movement of blood and make the mind too active to sleep. Try to exercise in the morning or afternoon if you can. When possible, perform strenuous activities earlier in the evening.

Reduce anxiety and stress: Stress and anxiety are two of the most-reported reasons people lose sleep. At bedtime, they worry about things they cannot change. If you need to make a call, pay a bill or fix a relationship issue, worrying about it doesn’t help. The morning will come, and action can be taken then.

Ditch the devices: Do not keep a TV in your bedroom and leave smart phone, tablets, laptops and computers elsewhere.

Create the proper sleep space: Your sleeping space or environment is important for helping you sleep. Studies show that sleeping in a completely dark space with little sound is most conducive to restful sleep. In addition to blinds, dark curtains that block out external light are a good idea, as is not using an illuminated clock by the bed. Having a comfortable mattress and blankets that make you feel cozy and not pained or irritated is also important.

Use natural sleep aids: Supplements containing melatonin (click here to read about it’s anti-aging properties!), valerian or chamomile (read about 5 more chamomile benefits, here) can help relax you and lead to drowsiness. You don’t want to rely on sleep aids forever, but having some handy for the start of a new sleep cycle plan or when sleep is especially hard to come by can often help.


Sweet dreams…

Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as Editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.