Sleep has been linked to strengthening the immune system, losing weight, lowering stress levels, reducing feelings of depression, decreasing inflammation in our bodies and—you guessed it—lessening the chance of developing breast cancer.
Research supports this.
One Japanese study showed those who regularly got six hours of sleep or less a night have a 62 percent greater chance of developing breast cancer than women who got seven hours a night. Another recent study found that getting six hours or less of sleep a night may increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence in post-menopausal women who’ve had the disease. In addition, the study also found a link between lack of sleep and having aggressive tumors.
The connection between poor sleeping habits and breast cancer may also be related to the link between lack of sleep and obesity. It’s well known that being obese puts you at a higher risk for breast cancer. Another reason may be insufficient levels of melatonin, a hormone that’s produced by the brain while you sleep. Melatonin also suppresses the production of a particular type of estrogen linked to breast cancer.
If you’re not yet convinced about the importance of sleep, keep in mind fatigue is believed to have been a major factor in both the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear disasters, with key operators allegedly falling asleep on the job.
So, how much sleep do you need?
Experts say no magic number of hours works for everyone; it depends on your age, your health, and other factors. But as a general rule, seven to nine hours is the appropriate amount of sleep for an adult. If you currently sleep less than seven, increasing the time from that to nine hours all at once may be impossible. Start by increasing your sleep time in half-hour increments and let your body adjust until you reach a healthy number of hours.
For your best night’s sleep, remember CDQ – Cold, Dark and Quiet. Experts recommend keeping your bedroom at 60 to 68 degrees at night. And contrary to what my husband says, just closing my eyes does not do the trick in a too-bright room! You can see ambient light through your eyelids and it will disrupt your sleep. Cover lit electronics such as alarm clocks, televisions, DVD players and others with a shirt or towel. To cut down on light from outside, use blackout shades or eyeshades. Lastly, do your best to be sure your room is quiet, or use earplugs or a white noise machine.
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Irvine, Chris. “Less Than Six Hours Sleep a Night Raises Breast Cancer Risk by 60 Percent.” The Telegraph, November 3, 2008, online edition. http://www. telegraph.co.uk/health/3369361/Less-than-six-hours-sleep-a-nightraises-breast-cancer-risk-by-60-per-cent.html
Author unknown. “Lack of Sleep Found to be a New Risk Factor for Aggressive Breast Cancers.” University Hospitals. http://www.uhhospitals.org/about/ media-news-room/current-news/2012/08/lack-of-sleep-found-to-be-anew-risk-factor-for-aggressive-breast-cancers (accessed January 1, 2014).
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