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As if there weren’t enough reasons to get a full night’s sleep, now it can help prevent severe forms of breast cancer. Sleep is when cells regenerate; previous studies have shown that getting enough sleep can help prevent all sorts of health problems like cancer, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and a decreased immune system. A new study suggests that getting too little sleep may be linked to more aggressive breast cancer tumors. This is the first study to link the amount of sleep to the severity of a tumor.
Researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, followed 412 post-menopausal breast cancer patients. Those patients, who were recruited for the study at the time of their diagnosis, answered questions about their sleep patterns over the previous two years. They were then split into three groups: those who slept less than six hours, those who slept six to seven hours, and those who got more than seven hours of sleep a night. The women who got less than six hours of shut-eye per night were more likely to have higher tumor recurrence scores. There was a strong correlation between less sleep and worse recurrence scores.
Lead researcher Dr. Cheryl Thompson suggests one possible reason for the results in that a lack of sleep disrupts circadian rhythms. The 24-hour cycle is linked to patterns in “brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and other biological activities.” The cell regeneration part may be the most important in preventing the aggressive tumors. “Sleep is when your body repairs itself at the cellular level, and this may be impaired,” said Thompson.
There was no link between lack of sleep and tumor recurrence in pre-menopausal women. This is likely because of “different mechanisms underlying premenopausal and post-menopausal” breast cancers. Even if you haven’t hit menopause yet, there are still more than enough reasons to be getting the right amount of shuteye. Harvard Health Publications notes that a lack of sleep can affect your mood, memory, learning capabilities, metabolism, cardiovascular health, and immune system. It can also affect your safety, because a lack of sleep at night can cause you to fall asleep during the day, like when you are behind the wheel of a vehicle. Even your skin will thank you for getting more rest: WebMD reports that your psychological stress increases with each hour of sleep that you lose, stress that can cause you to break out.
Thompson urges people to look at sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle. “We keep saying that it’s important to go to the gym and eat right, but we also need to rest. As a society, I think we simply need to value a good night’s sleep,” said the assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. So take some time to yourself and go to bed early tonight—your body will thank you.