The Connection Between Cancer And Sleep

Sleep and cancer risk

Cancer is a non-communicable disease and emerging as a big public health problem in India. These are lifestyle-related diseases and have a long latency period. These need special infrastructure and aggressive treatment, and one projection shows about 18% of women and 21% of men will be diagnosed with cancer, these figures will only rise as people get older and the population increases. As there is knowledge about sleep’s impact on health, many researchers have now begun to focus on whether lack of sleep and cancer are connected. Though there is still enough research to be done about this multifaceted relationship, cancer and sleep problems seem to be linked.

Read below to learn more about the lack of sleep and cancer connection: 

Sleep and Cancer Risk

It is pretty natural to wonder How Sleep Affects Cancer? Lack of sleep and cancer are closely associated as it is seen that people with sleep issues are at a higher risk of developing cancer of certain types. It also seems that lack of sleep affects cancer progression and treatment.

On the other hand, cancer affects sleep. Cancer side effects and even their symptoms result in sleeping problems and a reduction in the quality of life. Also, lack of sleep and cancer leads to mental and physical changes, which hinder overall health and, in turn, sleep. 
Many survivors of cancer are affected by lack of sleep long after treatment.

Although sleep and cancer may or may not be directly related, it is important to get enough quality sleep as it is a protective shield. Also, for those who are suffering from cancer, if they can get that sleep, they feel emotionally, mentally, and physically better. This increases their ability to deal with this deadly disease. 

Evidence on lack of sleep and cancer shows that various components of sleep determine how it affects cancer. Cancer and sleep problems are cyclical and affected by sleep quality, duration of sleep, sleep disorders, and the circadian rhythm. 

Sleep Duration

There are conflicting results in studies about the lack of sleep, cancer and how sleep affects cancer. It could be because of the type of cancer, and how the data was collected. But it has been found that those who have sleeping problems and sleep for less than six hours per night have an increased risk of death from various diseases and an increased cancer risk.

In certain types of cancers, short sleep duration is linked with a higher risk of colon polyps that can later turn into cancer. In older patients, lack of sleep is related to stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. However, lung cancer is not found to be a lack of sleep cancer.

Animal studies show the link between lack of sleep and cancer. Cancer and sleep deprivation result from damage to the cells that can potentially lead to DNA damage. That finally can result in cancer. Although there is nothing conclusive found in human studies, theoretically, sleep and cancer is related, especially for those with sleeping problems. Additionally, lack of sleep and cancer are indirectly related. Sleep and cancer are linked as lack of sleep leads to obesity, low immunity, and inflammation, potentially raising cancer risk. 

Also Read:10 Reasons Why Good Sleep is Important

Lack Of Sleep And Cancer: Quality Of Sleep

Of the things that is difficult to accurately measure for the question of how sleep affects cancer over the long term is the sleep duration for those with sleeping problems, thus making it difficult to know the effects of lack of sleep and cancer. Studies conducted on mice show that, fragmented sleep causes inflammation that promotes growth and progression. However, in an observational study conducted on adults over the age of 50, people who had poor sleep quality had a high risk of cancer. Lack of sleep and cancer of the prostate was found in men in another study. 

Circadian Rhythm

Cancer and sleep problems happen due to the circadian rhythm. It is the internal body clock and is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is a part of the brain that sends signals to optimise activity depending on the time of the day. Light is the key factor of circadian rhythm, and due to the presence of artificial light, travel, night shifts at work, etc., this clock can be misaligned with the natural daylight hours. There is evidence that this lack of sleep increases the risk of cancer. The circadian rhythm helps cells grow, divide and also impact the DNA. Metabolism, hormone production, and immune function also get impacted—this impact on the body due to circadian disruption ups the risk of cancer. So sleep, and cancer is linked due to this influence. 

Lack of Sleep and Cancer Progression

Cancer and sleep problems and  its progression are interlinked. The effect of lack of sleep on hormones, inflammation and metabolism affects the aggressiveness of cancer in women with breast cancer, sleeping for more than nine hours with an increased risk of death. How sleep affects cancer for those with obstructive sleep apnea is that it plays a role in cancer progression because it helps tumors metastasize. 

Lack of Sleep and Cancer Therapy

Cancer therapy can cause various side effects, one of which is sleep disruptions. During treatment, there is fatigue, anxiety, depression, breathing problems, digestive problems, pain, and more. All this results in inability to sleep or to stay asleep for a long time. Cancer and sleep problems go hand-in-hand.

Those with cancer and sleeping problems should talk to the doctor. But for those who want to prevent a lack of sleep and cancer, it is important to get good sleep through a proper sleep routine and meditation for mind rejuvenation.


Authored By: Divya Shankar

About Author: Divya Shankar is a multifaceted content writer with 7+ years of experience. She has exclusive writing expertise in ayurveda.

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