Good sleep promotes survival in breast cancer patients


How long cancer patients survive following treatment can be influenced by one simple factor: sleep. Research reveals that breast cancer patients who sleep less at night and snore frequently have poorer survival rates than those with longer, better quality sleep. A study of 21,230 women cancer survivors demonstrated that less sleep combined with snoring also impacted the prognosis of women with lung cancer and all cancer cases included in the study, however the association was not as strong.

Other research shows that sleep level impact the body’s cortisol production, which helps regulate the immune system, as well as melatonin, which is thought to help prevent cell damage that can trigger cancer. And poor quality sleep has long been linked to higher risk for certain types of cancer.

In a study on mice, among two groups given a cancer-promoting treatment responded differently depending on how well rested they were. Mice whose sleep was disrupted were less able to fight off the disease, resulting in larger tumors.

“It’s not the tumor, it’s the immune system. Fragmented sleep changes how the immune system deals with cancer in ways that make the disease more aggressive,” said David Gozal, director of the study.

So what to do if you’re a snorer or insomniac? First, if you’ve received a recent cancer diagnosis and know you suffer from these problems, talk to your doctor. He or she may refer you to a sleep clinic that can help take active steps toward ensuring a good, quiet night’s rest.

One study showed yoga practice improved sleep in 90 percent of participants who’d been diagnosed with cancer—75 percent of them with breast cancer. And exercising regularly has been shown to help participants get a good night’s rest. Setting a schedule, reducing caffeine intake and eating light at night should also improve the quality of your down time.

Losing weight, exercise, smoking cessation and avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bedtime can help fix snoring—as can be simply sleeping on your side instead of your back.