A new study from the USA reports that short sleep duration combined with frequent snoring reported prior to cancer diagnosis may influence subsequent breast cancer survival.
Results show that women who typically slept less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night and were frequent snorers in the years before their cancer diagnosis experienced a poorer cancer prognosis.
The findings were especially robust for women who were diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer patients who reported sleeping 6 hours or less per night and snoring 5 or more nights per week before their diagnosis were 2 times more likely to die from breast cancer (hazard ratio = 2.14) than patients who reported sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night and rarely snored.
The study results are published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
In a week where scientists have revealed extensive data on the world’s sleeping patterns, leading researchers have told the BBC that society has become “supremely arrogant” in ignoring the importance of sleep. They say people and governments really need to take the problem seriously.
The body clock drives huge changes in the human body. Cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infections and obesity have all been linked to reduced sleep. It alters alertness, mood, physical strength and even the risk of a heart attack in a daily rhythm.
Sleep experts worldwide, including many who are based in the UK, endorse these statements. They include Dr Akhilesh Reddy, from the University of Cambridge, who said that the body clock influences every biological process in the human body and the health consequences of living against the clock were “pretty clear cut”, particularly in the case of breast cancer.
But the pressures of work and social lives mean many people cut their sleep during the week and catch up at the weekend. Researchers are investigating whether there is a health impact.
The study, by a team at the University of Bristol in the UK and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, assessed “sleep debt” – a measure of the difference in the nightly hours asleep on weekdays and at the weekend.
“We found that as little as 30 minutes a day sleep debt can have significant effects on obesity and insulin resistance,” said Prof Shahrad Taheri from Weill Cornell. He added: “Sleep loss is widespread in modern society, but only in the last decade have we realised its metabolic consequences.
“Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve their success.”
The study was funded by the UK’s Department of Health, where 10% of healthcare budgets are already spent on treating diabetes. Perhaps they’ll act on it accordingly.
Information on global sleep habits has been equally informative and it was clearly evident that there was a conflict between our desire to stay up late and our bodies urging us to get up in the morning.
Prof Daniel Forger, one of the researchers, said “Society is pushing us to stay up late, our body clocks are trying to get us up earlier, and in the middle the amount of sleep that we have is being sacrificed; that’s what we think is going on in global sleep crisis.
The study found people in Japan and Singapore had an average of seven hours and 24 minutes sleep while the people in the Netherlands had eight hours and 12 minutes. People in the UK averaged just under eight hours – a little less than the French. The study also showed women had about 30 minutes more per night in bed than men, particularly between the ages of 30 and 60.
The message to everyone is very evident.
Sleep enough – Stop Snoring – and don’t ignore the opinions of the experts.