• Martha Lewis

Sleeping well may improve breast cancer

I know, I’ve said it a million times—and those experts keep backing me up! Sleep is critical to

our health and well-being.

If we suffer from insomnia, we know without even having to read about it that it leads to irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and memory loss as well as a host of other issues.

If you don’t sleep well, you will be far more likely to snap at your kids when they drop their clothes on the floor. Or at your spouse for forgetting to buy apples. You will also be more likely to forget where you put your keys and might even blank out when you’re trying to

do a presentation at work.

How many of us have stood in the pasta aisle of the grocery store in a sleepless haze, suddenly clueless about why we went down there…did we need sauce? Noodles?


It can be easy to brush these things aside as minor annoyances if we’re intent on keeping our

busy life going at breakneck speed and not making enough time for sleep. But now, more and more studies are finding that there are long-lasting benefits to getting the average seven to eight hours of sleep we need every night: reduced chance of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, just to name a few.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, there is a new study that shows that sleeping well can even improve your chances of breast cancer survival.

Dr. Amanda Phipps, along with other researchers, has discovered a link between women who

died of breast cancer and poor sleep habits pre-diagnosis. She used data from approximately 7,500 Women’s Health Initiative study participants who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

And she found that the women who slept less than five hours a night (which constitutes fairly severe sleep deprivation) before their diagnosis had about one and a half times the increased risk of dying from their disease. Compared to women with breast cancer who said they slept the recommended amount of sleep a night. (They didn’t collect sleep data from women after their diagnosis, because the stress of having cancer and going through treatment can cause sleep issues.)

According to the Huffington Post, another study found that women at high risk of breast cancer had a shifted cortisol cycle. Cortisol is a hormone that helps regulate the immune system and has an effect on cells that help fight cancer. It usually reaches peak levels at dawn and then declines during the day. So it can be disrupted if a person isn’t sleeping well.

Melatonin, which is also used by the brain while we sleep, is an anti-oxidant that can help prevent damage to DNA that can lead to cancer. It also slows production of oestrogen which can encourage cancerous breast and ovarian cancers to keep dividing.

So there you have it; even more reason to start getting to the bottom of why you aren’t sleeping well. Developing new sleep habits could change your whole life by making you healthier and happier. And in some cases, it could even save your life.

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