You probably know sleep is important for mood, appetite, and crushing your workouts—but bad sleep hygiene can have more serious consequences. What time you hit the pillow and how restful your shut-eye is can affect your breast cancer risk, new research shows. Disruptions of your circadian rhythm, which can result from poor sleep, may play a role in breast cancer.
“Factors like light or noise can suppress melatonin at night, when levels are supposed to be high. The body responds by releasing estrogen from the ovaries at times of day it normally wouldn’t,” says Carla Finkielstein, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. In some cases, the constant, unscheduled release of hormones like this could increase cancer risk.
Occasional bad nights are nothing to worry about, but anything that throws off your z’s chronically is. These three tips will help you get the nightly rest you need.
Shut down disruptions
Waking up more than twice a night is associated with a 21 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer, new research in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention shows. Fragmented sleep changes the white blood cells in a way that promotes tumor growth, according to an earlier study in mice, says Dorraya El-Ashry, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Take steps to make your sleep more peaceful. If you live on a noisy street, for instance, consider getting a pink noise machine. (Pink noise is similar to white noise but has been proved to boost sleep quality.) If you often wake up with a sore throat or neck pain, you may snore; 88 percent of women do, but only 72 percent know it. Changing your sleeping position, getting a new pillow, or wearing a mouth guard can help; ask your doctor or dentist for advice.