A woman sleeping on the couch.

Sleep & Cancer

Oct 11, 2017

The connection between sleep and cancer runs deep. Research has linked the lack of sleep to cancer and a host of health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and memory impairment.

In fact, heart disease and cancer are running neck and neck in killing Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control, of the 2.6 million U.S. citizens who died in 2014 (the latest figures available), 23.4 percent died from heart disease, while 22.5 percent expired from various cancers.

As important as research into cancer and other killer diseases is, there are things we can do to take responsibility for our own health. That doesn’t mean we won’t be affected by the disease, but we can be proactive in its prevention.

After years of nagging by doctors, many people have come to understand that avoiding regular diets of unhealthy foods and undertaking a routine of regular, modest exercise can go a long way toward disease prevention and a healthier, more fulfilling, and more productive life. Now, research and medical professionals are adding quality, restorative sleep to the list.

It is fitting that sleep should be one of three keys to a healthy life since we spend a third of our lives sleeping, or at least we should. Doctors recommend seven to nine hours of sleep each night for adults.

How does lack of sleep contribute to cancer?

It may be that cancers grow when our circadian rhythms – the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle – are disrupted. On its website, the National Sleep Foundation says scientists manipulating the sleep-wake cycles of laboratory rodents over an extended period learned that tumors grow faster in sleep-deprived animals.

Another study published in the International Journal of Cancer found the rate of breast cancer was 30 percent higher among women who worked shifts. Male shift workers had a higher incidence of prostate cancer. The theory is bright lights on the night shift suppress the manufacture of melatonin, the hormone that tells our brains it’s time to go to bed.

A 2013 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention followed 1,347 men who suffered from insomnia for five years. Ten percent (135) developed prostate cancer.

Not sleeping well doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to come down with a terrible disease, but it still affects our quality of life, just as does a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. If we’re tired, we are less sharp, less productive, and more likely to have an accident, especially while driving or operating machinery. Serious sleep problems require the help of medical professionals, but before we consult a physician or sleep clinic, there are things we can do to improve sleep. Before investing in medical treatment or a new mattress, search the Internet for sleep tips, and you’ll find lots of helpful suggestions.

But sometimes a new mattress makes all the difference. Mattress manufacturers recommend replacing a mattress every eight years or so. Many of us have probably been sleeping on our current beds even longer than that. And if you haven’t shopped for a mattress in eight to 10 years, you might be shocked at the sheer number of choices arrayed on the showroom floor. Advances in modern mattress technology mean the beds have thick, plush comfort layers covering state-of-the-art coiled innersprings. Some models have no innersprings at all, being constructed of foam. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Tempur-Pedic, constructed of a patented foam material first used by NASA. Some new hybrid models, such as those by Sealy Posturepedic, combine innerspring support with memory foam and gel comfort layers.

And then there is the adjustable foundation, which allows you to raise and lower the head and foot of the bed via remote control in order to find the right position for complete pressure relief. Many models come with relaxing massage units.

Sleep Outfitters invests considerable time and money in training employees to help customers navigate this mattress maze. That means associates must understand why the customer has walked into the store in the first place. The customer who is not sleeping well has a much different need than one who is looking for a bed for the spare bedroom.

Not sleeping well can lead to problems more serious than just a drowsy day at work. If you’re sleep-deprived, research simple sleep tips that could solve the problem. If it’s more serious, seek medical help. And, if you just need a new mattress, visit Sleep Outfitters. As owner Kim Knopf says, “We all sleep. Why not sleep well?”

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