Though associated with the hardy and hardworking, sleep deprivation has been linked to a bevy of health ailments and cancers, including prostate cancer.
Researchers found a dramatically higher risk of developing prostate cancer in a large study published Tuesday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Researchers in Boston followed 2,425 Icelandic men between the ages of 67 and 96 for three to seven years, using a national registry to track health outcomes after surveys about sleep patterns.
The risk of prostate cancer rose by 60 percent for men who had trouble falling asleep but doubled for those who reported difficulty staying asleep. The researchers also found evidence that those with sleep problems were more likely to have advanced prostate cancer than those who slept well.
Previous research has drawn overnight shift work, with attendant disruptions to the body's circadian rhythm, as a risk factor in breast cancer and endometrial cancers in women. And just last week, a large study published in the journal Sleep found a link to colorectal cancer among men and women who were either overweight or regular snorers and slept nine or more hours per day. Another study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that the breast cancer risk was cumulative and four times greater in women who described themselves as "morning" rather than "evening" people compared to those who don't work night shifts.
Scientists believe melatonin, the hormone made by the pineal gland that regulates sleep cycles, is responsible for the link between sleep and cancer. Higher levels of melatonin have been shown to suppress tumor growth, whereas levels found in those with too much exposure to artificial light appeared to support more aggressive tumor growth in cancer cells.In addition, sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes — and, perhaps most alarmingly, cause the skin to age more quickly. According to research, some 90 percent of people with insomnia report at least one other health problem.
Yet, however alarming the latest sleep study research may be, some analysts say that most Americans get adequate sleep. While sleep deprivation is known to be chronic among military service members and shift workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that self-reported data indicates adequate levels of sleep among the general population — though self-reported data may be less than accurate.
The study involved researchers from Harvard University Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston.
See also: Sleep Disorders Common In Military, American Society and Women Working Regular Night Shifts Have Double the Risk of Breast Cancer. Below is a video on the deleterious health effects of sleep deprivation: