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Good sleep helps cancer patient's survival chances

Sufficient good quality sleep not only helps healthy people not to fall ill and to live longer; a healthy sleep pattern also increases the survival chances of people who are already seriously ill. Even people with advanced cancer.

Study 1

In 2014 researchers at Stanford University published a study [Sleep. 2014 May 1;37(5):837-42.] in which 97 women with breast cancer participated. The women were above the age of 45, and three-quarters of them had metastases. The researchers got the women to wear an actigraph for three days at night so they could measure the women's sleeping behaviour.

If you have a sleep efficiency of 85 percent or higher, then you sleep at least 85 percent of the time you spend in bed. Sleep researchers regard a sleep efficiency of less than 85 percent as bad quality sleep.

The researchers discovered that during the ten years that the study lasted, the quality of sleep predicted whether the women would survive their disease. Of those with good quality sleep, 60 percent were still alive after 10 years. Of those with bad quality sleep, only 20 percent survived.

Good sleep helps cancer patient's survival chances

The number of times per night that the women woke, and how long they stayed awake, was a factor in their survival.

Study 2
Inspired by the study above - and by research with similar findings among healthy people [Sleep. 2010 May;33(5):585-92.] - researchers at the University of Pittsburgh asked 292 people with an advanced form of liver or pancreatic cancer how many hours a night they slept. They then looked at how many study participants survived.

The amount of sleep that the participants got each night predicted their survival chances, the researchers discovered. Six and a half hours of sleep per day was enough.

Good sleep helps cancer patient's survival chances

Possible explanation
Good sleep helps cancer patient's survival chances
"One mechanism that may explain the link between sleep and survival is immune system dysregulation," the researchers speculate. "Experimental sleep deprivation significantly reduces Natural Killer (NK) cell activity in healthy human subjects [...]." [Psychosom Med. 1994 Nov-Dec;56(6):493-8.].

"While immune system dysregulation may explain the association between short sleep duration and mortality, it is not clear whether the same biological mechanisms can explain the association between long sleep duration and mortality. Initial assumptions may be that patients with long sleep duration have lower survival because longer sleep duration may be associated with sleep fragmentation, which is associated with poorer health."

"If our findings are replicated, screening and treatment of sleep disorders in the oncology setting may be warranted to identify, and potentially mitigate a modifiable risk factor for mortality," the researchers write.

"Future research should investigate whether similar relationships are found in patients with non-advanced cancers."

"In addition, the development of interventions is warranted to improve sleep and quality of life and to decrease psychological and physical morbidity in advanced cancer patients. Cognitive behavioral interventions have been demonstrated to produce sustained improvements in sleep quality and duration over time without the potential adverse effects of medication."

Sleep Med. 2017 Apr;32:208-212.

Not eating a few hours before sleeping inhibits cancer cells 18.08.2017
Sleeping pills quadruple mortality risk 07.05.2014


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