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Good Night's Sleep, Exercise Protect from Breast Cancer?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Sleep and Breast Cancer

Women who exercise regularly, and get at least seven hours of sleep each night, can significantly reduce their risk of breast cancer. The combination is important. Women, who exercise without needed slumber, put themselves at higher risk. The findings come from the American Association for Cancer Research, presented at the Seventh Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

According to James McClain, Ph.D., cancer prevention fellow at the National Cancer Institute and lead author of the study says, "Short duration sleep appears to have opposing effects of physical activity on several key hormonal and metabolic parameters...” Dr. McClain explains that exercise probably influences hormones and immune function, though the exact reason exercise protects from cancer is not completely understood. Lack of sleep seems to thwart the benefits of exercise when it comes to breast and other types of cancer prevention. Sleeping less than seven hours a day was found to increase overall risk of cancer.

The researchers studied 5,968 women, specifically looking at the link between a good night’s sleep and cancer risk. The participants initially responded through a survey in 1998. The women were then tracked through the Washington County Cancer Registry and Maryland State Cancer Registry. The results found a significant link between sleep, physical activity and cancer incidence. The scientists concluded, “Current findings suggest that sleep duration modifies the relationship between physical activity and all-site cancer risk among young and middle-aged women."

Unfortunately, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always easy. Insomnia is common problem. We put off sleep to “get things done”. Estimates show that approximately 32million people in the US suffer from insomnia. (1)

Prescription medications have side effects. Some interfere with mental acuity. Finding ways to guarantee quality sleep is attainable. The health benefits should not be underestimated.

Consider the following if you suffer from insomnia, difficulty falling asleep or interrupted sleep patterns. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 182, 460 women will be diagnosed, and die from breast cancer this year.

Exercise regularly.

Avoid eating late at night

Find ways to reduce stress – take a Yoga class, practice deep breathing, or simply
listen to restful music before going to bed..

Avoid caffeine, chocolate and alcohol late at night.

Keep a regular schedule of sleep – go to bed at the same time each night.

Limit fluid intake after dinner.

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Try some Chamomile tea.

Block out noise – turn off the TV.

Read a good book.

Learn to meditate.

Ask your doctor if natural sleep aids are safe for you. Melatonin, valerian, and kava are known to help.

Have a warm glass of milk, yogurt, or light protein snack before bed. It’s important to avoid fatty foods.

Stop trying to do everything. Get rid of unnecessary chores, and simply learn to slow down.

If depression contributes to insomnia, please see your doctor for help.

Try some aromatherapy –lavender oil, diffused in the bedroom, sprayed, as a bath salt, or body lotion can promote rest and relaxation.

Focus on getting adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium from food or supplements.

Ask your partner for a back massage, a wonderful way to drift off to sleep.

(1) Insomnia Statistics

Exercise and Rest Reduce Cancer Risk



By now there should be no doubt that 'messing' with sleep is dangerous to our health. The problem for any insomniac is how to go to sleep without drugs. There actually is some British research that seems to indicate that ambien induced sleep leaves a body with the same 'sleep-architecture' as an insomniac. The best resource I have found so far is a new book by Dr. Siegfried Haug (I Want to Sleep-Unlearning Insomnia). He believes that fighting insomnia is the wrong way to go because any fighting attitude creates an alert that is sleep adverse. His approach teaches how to invite sleep (during the day) so we can be ready for sleep when the time comes. it makes sense but it really is an attitudinal change.
Thanks for your comment. The premise is brilliant. Taking charge of our own health with attitude change might be challenging, but much better than a quick-fix. Thank you for sharing that.