Can Your Bad Sleep Habits Increase Your Risk for Cancer?
Did you know that your lack of sleep might be dangerous to your health? Yes, I said dangerous! There are long-term health consequences that go hand and hand with sleep deprivation. Here are just a few of the biggies…
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Attack
- Heart Failure
- ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
- Mental Impairment
- Injury or Death from Accident
- Poor Quality of Life
- Increased Risk of Breast and Prostate cancer
Did you know that sleep was that crucial to your health? I talk a lot about the 5 Pillars of Health; Food (mostly plants), Exercise, Water, Stress Reduction and you guessed it SLEEP.
If that does not convince you to read on how about the study that concluded that reduced sleep time is a greater mortality risk than smoking, high blood pressure and heart disease. But why is that, what really goes on when we are sleeping that makes it so important to our health?
Sleep is a fundamental process. In just a short 72 hours without sleep you start to suffer from major cognitive deficits and hallucinations. But even more, a study has the telling fact that with just a 24-hour sleep loss you have the cognitive impairment of someone that has a blood alcohol of .10 percent. I’ll save you the Google search, in all 50 states the percentage is 0.08 percent blood alcohol before they haul your booty to jail on DUI charges. Believe it or not, that is not even the worst of it. When you are chronically sleep deprived your body has no chance for repair and restoration!
You are designed to sleep about 1/3 of your life, and the other 2/3 depends on you getting enough sleep to be well! When we sleep, these functions happen in the body!
- Your muscles relax, and your body increases the blood flow to them for healing and restoration. This includes your skeletal muscles, heart, and digestive tract.
- Tissues in the body grow and repair.
- Energy is restored.
- Growth hormones are released, great for anti-aging.
- Cortisol levels lower naturally.
- Your hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin balance out.
- New tasks learned during the day are embedded in our brain, think of a programmed download of sorts.
There are many other smaller processes like the fact that your DNA goes to work repairing damaged cells when you sleep.
Optimal amounts of sleep are associated with longevity and good health. The National Sleep Foundation says “Researchers suspect that a disruption in the circadian rhythm could pose a risk for developing cancer since the body’s internal clock affects so many biological functions. One theory is that the suppression of melatonin at night (which comes from exposure to bright light) could be partly responsible. Indeed, scientists have seen this link in animal studies; for example, when they manipulate the sleep/wake cycles of rodents for an extended time, cancers grow faster.” Ever think your chronic sleep disorders increased your risk of cancer? It does!
As always this is not about scaring you into having different habits, this is about bringing an awareness and mindfulness to you so that you can achieve optimal health and sleep is a huge piece of that healthy puzzle. If you are sleeping less than 6 hours a night on average, you are likely sleep deprived. The CDC says 30% of Americans are chronically sleep deprived. That is 40+ million of us walking around and functioning at lower levels than we might be capable of. Optimal sleep is 7-9 hours a night for adults and if that seems like a luxury then its time to find out what is causing you to lose sleep! I have compiled a list of things that might be at the root of your poor sleeping habits
- Your brain will not shut off at night.
- Your hormones are out of whack, especially after menopause.
- Your bedroom is not comfortable instead it’s crowded, cluttered, messy, or loud.
- Your pet sleeps in your bed.
- You have sleep apnea and it is not being controlled with a sleep machine.
- You suffer from depression or anxiety.
- You are taking too many over the counter sleep medications.
- You eat too close to bedtime.
- You have chronic pain.
- You have a weak bladder or kidney troubles.
- Your partner snores.
- It is too hot or too cold in your bedroom.
- Stress from the day is consuming you.
- You have young children in the home.
- Excitement for an event or project.
- You consume too much caffeine during the day.
- Your bed is uncomfortable.
- You suffer from nightmares.
Chances are you don’t suffer from all of these sleep troubles but you must define the root cause to start a process of healing the behavior. In some cases, you will have to get creative, like if you have small children in the house. No one is expecting you to relocate them, but you must work on their sleep behaviors so you can get more of your own sleep. Investigate and get creative. Trust me, you are not the first one to suffer from any of these problems and I bet there are hacks for each one of these problems that I have listed. Just dig a little bit on Google to find them
When you begin to solve your sleep problems you will see other parts of your health line up. The five pillars are all connected and when one falls out of balance they can all suffer. Sleep is just as important as eating real food and drinking all your water for the day. You will find it becomes easier to exercise and you will manage stress much better when you are getting the proper amount of sleep each night.
I wanted to leave you with some of my favorite tips for getting more sleep. You can work on them tonight! Remember 7-9 hours is optimum for adults to sleep per night. More is not always better so don’t think getting 10 is better for you, it is actually too long and could throw off your circadian rhythm if you sleep more than 9 hours on average. Here are my tips!
- Cool your room down. Don’t make it cold but cool is better than hot or warm. The reason is that your body naturally releases heat as you begin to wind down and get ready for sleeping. You can help it by keeping your room cool. Also when you start to wake up you begin to heat up again, if your room is cool it might help you stay between the sheets a little longer.
- Do not take your cell phone, tablet or computer to bed with you. I know this is not a popular notion but really if you are having trouble sleeping this a biggie! Chances are if your brain will not shut down or you are stressed the cause is living right on that device. Have it close to the bedroom if you like but never in your bed or on your nightstand. Read about “blue light” and the disruption it causes in your sleep patterns.
- Stop eating 3 hours before bedtime. Your body uses a tremendous amount of energy digesting food. Up to 30% of your energy is being used for digestion because you ate too close to bedtime; your body will give that priority and will not focus on restoring and repairing. Same goes for eating in the middle of the night. Not eating up to 3 hours before bedtime means all your food is mostly through the active digestion process and your body will be able to rest much better.
- Have some steady white noise in the room. Lots of people suffer from loud, light-filled bedrooms. Especially if you live in the city. If you live where it is quite you might hear every creak and groan in your house. So no matter where you live white noise can help you sleep better. I like consistent noise like from a small fan or even a noise machine. It will help drown out unwanted noises and cause the brain to settle much faster into sweet slumber.
- Get something to read, learn to meditate or write down your thoughts before bed. I actually do all three of these things, they are part of my nightly bedtime routine. I find if I take a little time while I am snuggled into my bed to write down (on paper) my next days rough to-do list and my cares from the day it helps empty my brain out of worries and task. Then I read something encouraging and enlightening, filling my brain with great positive thoughts. Save the scary books and drama filled reading for some other reading time. After I read I pray and quietly share my gratitude for what the day brought me. I do this with my eyes closed and I find that I quickly drift off into my sleep time in peace and ready to restore.
If you are spending 1/3 of your life sleeping make it count. Give your body the best chance to restore, repair, rejuvenate and regulate its way to good health. Sweet dreams!