Sleep Deprivation and Breast Cancer – The lesser known link


A Dubai Health Authority study indicates number of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the UAE has gone up by 20% in the last six years.

pinkDubai: Sleep quality and sleep duration have been subjects of study for many sleep therapists as well as medical practitioners. However, in recent years, inadequate sleep has been associated not just with obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart disease but, with cancer too.

Sleep disturbances are many, right from stress, illness, drug treatment to ageing and Quality Sleep is associated with healing. It is important that adults catch up with at least 7-8 hours of good night’s sleep daily for sound mental health and proper functioning of immunity system. On a biological level, lack of sleep can increase inflammation and disrupt normal immune function; both of which may promote cancer development. Also, the hormone ‘Melatonin’ that’s produced when we sleep may have antioxidant properties that help prevent cellular damage.

A good night’s sleep may be one weapon in the fight against cancer as night-time Melatonin is a relevant anticancer signal. Women who sleep less than six hours a night could be raising the risk of breast cancer by more than 60%. Researchers believe that the natural sleep/wake pattern for humans is the one most in tune with our inherent circadian rhythms. The natural circadian rhythm consists of daytime exposure to intense sunlight alternating with night-times of near total darkness. This sleep-wake cycle is important for the production of melatonin, which acts as an internal biological clock regulating body temperature, endocrine functions, and a number of disease processes including heart attack, stroke and cancer.

There might be a connection between breast cancer and disruption of hormone cycles. Melatonin, which is primarily secreted at night, may trigger a reduction in the body’s production of Estrogen. Sleep deprivation hampers release of melatonin, allowing Estrogen levels to rise. Too much Estrogen is known to promote the growth of breast cancers. In all likelihood, women may be exposed to breast cancer if they chronically lack sleep. Also, post-menopausal women who slept fewer hours have chances of cancer recurrence. Validating these facts further; Dr. Irshaad Ebrahim, Medical Director of The London Sleep Centre Dubai  says, “There is increasing evidence that by optimising sleep in patients with cancer, we can improve long-term quality of life, survival rates and a better response to treatment. By improving sleep quantity and importantly sleep quality, we can reduce the incidence of depression in cancer patients and improve their quality and quantity of life.”

According to a Dubai Health Authority study, the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the UAE has gone up by 20% in the last six years. With October marking Breast Cancer Awareness month, The London Sleep Centre Dubai recommends some sleep tips and routine for a heathy you:-

  1. Wake up and go to bed the same time every day.
  2. Do not nap in the afternoon if you intend to complete your 7-8 hours of sleep cycle during the night.
  3. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at least 4-6 hours before bed.
  4. Don’t exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime.
  5. Develop sleep rituals, such as listening to relaxing music, reading something soothing for 15 minutes and having a cup of caffeine-free tea.
  6. Have a light snack before bed: Good options include yogurt, skim milk or cherry juice.
  7. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
  8. Indulge in stimulus control, which involves limiting time awake in bed and viewing the bed only as a place for sleep.
  9. Ensure sleep hygiene, such as avoiding heavy meals and television before bed.

Breast Cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed invasive cancers and evidence is increasing to suggest a link between poor sleep and an increased risk of breast cancer. If you have chronic sleep problems, a good night’s sleep may seem a distant dream. There are several therapies though to improve sleep. You could definitely benefit by visiting a sleep specialist as clinical intervention is required to re-establish a desirable sleep-wake cycle.

About The London Sleep Centre Dubai:

Affiliated to UK based The London Sleep Centre on Harley Street; this Dubai division is the only fully integrated Sleep Diagnostic and Treatment facility in the GCC.

Located in Dubai Healthcare city, it provides comprehensive diagnostic and treatment services to tackle sleep disorders caused by sleep-related breathing and conditions like Neuro-Psychiatric, medical and dental. It is world’s first clinic to have an integrated Dental Sleep Medicine TMJ service as part of its treatment offerings.

Staffed by an International team of Sleep experts, the same as The London Sleep Centre on Harley Street; this state-of-art Sleep Clinic ensures expert care of clients with thorough assessment of disorders, accurate real time analysis and precise diagnosis whilst offering each of its clients a unique treatment plan.

The London Sleep Centre Dubai is headed by famed Specialist Consultant Neuropsychiatrist in Sleep Disorders; Dr. Irshaad Ebrahim who’s clinical interests covers the entire spectrum of sleep disorders including Insomnia, Behavioural Sleep Medicine, Parasomnias Narcolepsy and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. With a commitment towards research and treatment for sleep disorders that spans over two decades, he has recently launched the Dubai division in the wake of rise in number of lifestyle related sleep disorders in the region.

Equipped with the most specialised Dental Sleep Medicine Team, the clinic has on board Dr. Steven Olmos, an internationally recognized lecturer and researcher, and the founder of the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre International. Having dedicated the past 26 years to the fields of Craniofacial Pain, TMD and Sleep Disordered Breathing, his ongoing efforts are focussed on establishing protocols between Dentistry and Sleep Medicine for optimal treatment outcomes in patients with Sleep Disordered Breathing including Sleep Apnoea.