Cancer

Updated 12 April 2017

Guys, a good night's sleep might save your life

A study suggests that there is a potential link between sleep deprivation and potentially fatal prostate cancer.

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Most people have had times in their lives where they have been unable to sleep. This is quite normal, but when insomnia or sleeplessness becomes chronic, getting professional help is a good idea.

Adequate sleep is essential, and for men, it might even mean the difference between life and death, a preliminary study suggests.

Researchers found that men younger than 65 who slept just three to five hours a night were 55% more likely to develop fatal prostate cancer than those who got the recommended seven hours of shuteye nightly.

And, six hours of sleep a night was linked to a 29% higher risk of prostate cancer death compared to seven hours.

Role of circadian rhythms

"If confirmed in other studies, these findings would contribute to evidence suggesting the importance of obtaining adequate sleep for better health," said lead study author Susan Gapstur, vice president of epidemiology at the American Cancer Society.

A Health24 article states that if you can’t sleep at night, you’re not alone. Around 10% of the global population suffer from insomnia, where you have trouble falling asleep, wake up frequently at night, and still feel tired when the morning comes.

However, more research is needed to better understand the biologic mechanisms, said Gapstur. For now, she considers the study "intriguing" but not substantive enough to cause sleep-deprived males any alarm.

Still, the findings contribute to evidence that the body's natural sleep/wake cycle – circadian rhythms – might play a role in prostate cancer development, Gapstur said.

The study results stem from an analysis of long-term data on more than 823 000 men in the United States. The findings were scheduled for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Washington, D.C.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get at least seven hours of sleep a night. According to a previous Health24 article the benchmark is eight hours of sleep a night.

Decline in nocturnal melatonin

Lack of sleep can inhibit production of melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep cycles. Low melatonin production can lead to an increase in genetic mutations, greater oxidative damage, reduced DNA repair and a weakened immune system, Gapstur said in an association news release.

Lack of sleep may also contribute to the disruption of genes involved in tumour suppression, she added.

It's not clear why the link between limited sleep and higher death risk from prostate cancer wasn't seen in men 65 and older. But, Gapstur suggested that the natural decline in nocturnal melatonin levels with age might possibly reduce the relative impact of lack of sleep.

Read more:

Missing sleep can make you sick

Eat right, sleep tight

How your brain knows it's time to sleep

 

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CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit cansa.org.za.

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