Being Well

The Importance of Sleep for Cancer Prevention and Patients

A good night's rest can do more for your health than you may realize. Learn about the important of sleep when it comes to cancer prevention and how to get the rest you deserve.

Whether you’re a cancer patient or just looking to live a healthier lifestyle, the stress of life can make getting enough sleep difficult. When a good night’s rest is eluding you, it’s easy to get upset about the importance of sleep (and your lack thereof) on top of everything else going on with your life. Changing your mindset is vital, though, since getting enough sleep can be an effective cancer prevention technique as well as make time during and after cancer treatment more fulfilling.

What Does Sleep Have to Do With Cancer?

Recent research has found links between chronic sleep problems in older men and prostate cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, as well as a connection between breast cancer development in postmenopausal women, according to In addition, a 2016 study in Sleep Medicine Reviews found a direct link between the lack of oxygen caused by sleep apnea and cancer tumor growth.

The body of research on the importance of sleep agrees that sleep strengthens immune function, and optimal immune function is important in fighting disease and preventing cancer. The National Sleep Foundation advises most adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Unfortunately, stress and worrying can affect your sleep quality and patterns, so learning how to maximize your rest will only improve your health and quality of life.

Reduce Continuous Sleep Interruptions

Do you sleep with pets (or kids) in your bed? Move your children to their rooms or give pets their own chair in the same room. Do you have an aching back or a partner who snores you awake? Switch to a 12-hour pain medication, or try using snoring nasal strips or earplugs. If you need to use the bathroom several times per night, try limiting drinks after 7 p.m.

Stick to a Sleep Schedule

You have your own personal body clock and natural sleep rhythm (called the circadian rhythm). If you’re unsure of yours, use a sleep tracking smartphone app, such as SleepyTime, Pillow or the Bedtime feature on Apple devices. These help you determine your best bedtime and wake time. Changing or disrupting your schedule can throw off your body clock and disturb your nighttime sleep.

Don’t Eat Too Late

When you’ve eaten a heavy late meal, it’s hard to fall asleep because your digestive system likes to do its hard work during the daytime. Try to limit alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and eating to two to three hours before bedtime to avoid their stimulating effects, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Time Your Exercise Right

Early risers should exercise in the bright, outdoor morning light, so its energizing effects help you go to bed earlier and wake feeling rested. Night owls should exercise in the late afternoon when the stimulating effect of exercise helps you stay awake longer.

Create a Wind-Down Routine

Create your own soothing routine by turning off the TV, dimming the lights and setting your phone to “do not disturb” half an hour before bedtime. Try reading a book until you feel sleepy. Or, lie quietly and use the Pzizz app, which plays a different calming soundtrack every time you access the app. Consider a warm shower or bath before bed to regulate your body temperature for rest.

Additionally, make sure side effects of any medications, over-the-counter drugs and even supplements aren’t the culprit in keeping you awake. Remember to talk about your sleep concerns with your doctor at your annual checkups.

A great doctor is an important step in gaining control of your health.

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Naomi Mannino
Naomi Mannino