Sleep Deprivation and Breast Cancer: Is There a Link?
We all know how great it feels after a good night’s sleep. You wake up refreshed and ready for a new day. Your mind is sharper, your body is stronger, and you are also ready to focus on the task at hand. So, what happens when you sleep?
Sleep accounts for roughly one-quarter to one-third of a human lifespan.1 As your body sleeps, the brain engages in actions that directly contribute to long-term health and wellness. During sleep, the body is repairing DNA damage, controlling the growth of cells, and also promoting the immune system. It’s not surprising then that a growing body of research has tied lack of quality sleep to chronic inflammation, cardiovascular complications, insulin resistance, obesity, and even cancer.2
A new study followed 11,412 women (aged 61-70 years) who were diagnosed with breast cancer for five years. Over that time, researchers divided the women into two groups: those who developed metastases, or secondary malignant growth away from the primary site, and those who did not. After analyzing the sleep habits of both sets of women, researchers found that sleep disorders were associated with a significant increase in the presence of breast cancer metastases in the overall population and in different age subgroups.3
So, Why is Sleep So Important?
As you sleep, your body is busy at work. This includes:
Healing Damaged Cells
Much of the body’s work to regulate cell growth occurs during sleep. We already know that when people are chronically sleep-deprived, this can lead to insulin resistance and chronic inflammation. Both of these conditions contribute to DNA damage, which in turn promotes the development of cancer. Further, inadequate sleep results in suppressed levels of melatonin, which plays a role in protecting DNA damage and acts as a tumor suppressor.
Boosting Your Immune System
A full night or 7 hours of sleep is recommended to help the body fight against infections, such as the cold or flu. Less sleep regularly strains the system and leaves the body vulnerable. In a mouse study, researchers noted that disturbed sleep reversed the efficacy of immune cells called tumor-associated macrophages, or TAMs—rather than eliminate the cancer cells, the sleep-deprived bodies helped the growth of new blood cells for the tumor.4
Recovering From the Day’s activities
In all people, but particularly for cancer patients, sleep that is inadequate or unrefreshing leads to fatigue, which in turn affects a patient’s quality of life, ability to tolerate treatment, and may lead to mood disorders or clinical depression.5
A Good Night’s Sleep
What we do know is that adequate sleep is fundamental to our health. If you struggle with insomnia or bouts of disturbed sleep, consider visiting a sleep doctor for evaluation. Sleep apnea is a serious condition where a person’s airway is collapsed during sleep, which causes them to periodically stop breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea now affects at least 22 million adults in the United States, of which 80% are undiagnosed.6 The good news is that there is a treatment. CPAP Is the leading therapy for sleep apnea and the majority of people who use CPAP therapy find immediate relief.
The CPAP Shop would be happy to assist you in ordering CPAP machines, masks, or other supplies. Give our knowledgable staff a call at 866-414-9700.
1. The science of sleep: understanding what happens when you sleep. John Hopkins Medicine.
2. Sleep and chronic disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018 Aug 8. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html
3. Jacob L, Scholten PC, Kostev K, Kalder M. Association between sleep disorders and the presence of breast cancer metastases in gynecological practices in German: a case-control study of 11,412 women. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2018 Sept;171(2):443-8.
4. Paddock C. Disrupted sleep speeds up cancer. Medical News Today. 2014 Jan
5. Ancoli-Israel S, Moore PJ, Jones V. The relationship between fatigue and sleep in cancer patients: a review. Eur J Cancer Care. 2001 Dec; 10(4):245-55.
6. Sleep apnea information for clinicians. American Sleep Apnea Foundation. 2018.
Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.