By Joseph Mercola
July 12, 2013
Sleep deprivation is such a pervasive condition in these days of artificial lights and non-stop entertainment, that you might not even realize you’re not getting enough sleep. It’s important to recognize that sleep is an absolutely crucial component of optimal health and disease prevention.
For example, the link between impaired sleep and cancer has been repeatedly confirmed. Tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions, primarily due to disrupted melatonin production.
Melatonin inhibits the proliferation of a wide range of cancer cell types, as well as triggering cancer cell apoptosis (self-destruction). The hormone also interferes with the new blood supply tumors required for their rapid growth (angiogenesis).
Poor sleep is also associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance and weight gain—two additional factors that also play an important role in cancer development.
Less Sleep = Higher Risk of Cancer
Most recently, a study published in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention1 found that men who had trouble sleeping were twice as likely to develop prostate cancer compared to those who slept well. According to the featured article:2
“This association was even stronger in cases of advanced prostate cancer, and the risk increased relative to the severity of the sleep problems… The lead researcher, Lara Sigurdardottir, Ph.D., expects that, ‘If our results are confirmed in future studies, sleep may become a potential target for intervention to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.”
Another recent study3 found that insufficient sleep may be a contributing factor in both the recurrence of breast cancer, and more aggressive forms of breast cancer among post-menopausal women. According to the study’s co-author Dr. Li Li:4
“Short sleep duration is a public health hazard leading not only to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but also cancer… Effective intervention to increase duration of sleep and improve quality of sleep could be an under-appreciated avenue for reducing the risk of developing more aggressive breast cancers and recurrence.”
Sleeping less than six hours per night has also been implicated as a risk factor for colorectal adenomas, which may develop into cancer if left untreated. In fact, those who slept less than six hours a night were found to have a 50 percent increased risk compared to those who got seven hours or more of sleep per night.5