Lack Of Sleep Could Raise Risk Of Prostate Cancer And Emotional Problems: Studies

Jan 23, 2014 by

Lack Of Sleep Could Raise Risk Of Prostate Cancer And Emotional Problems: Studies

Separate recent studies have pointed to the potential harmful effects on health of one common lifestyle habit these days – lack of sleep. These included increased cancer risk, emotional problems, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Increased risk of advanced prostate cancer in men

A recent study which looked at 928 men in Iceland for a period of 7 years revealed that poor sleep or lack of sleep could increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer.

The researchers had found that men who had more of the hormone melatonin in their bodies had a 75% lower risk of advanced prostate cancer.

Melatonin is produced by the body in the dark at night. This hormone plays an important role in regulating the body’s sleep-wake or day-night cycle. People who do not sleep enough, do not sleep well, and / or do not sleep in the dark (for example, shift workers who work at night and sleep during the day) tend to have lowers levels of melatonin.

The study subjects were surveyed on their sleeping habits and also had their urine tested for a specific melatonin breakdown compound. Generally, those who were on sleep medications and who found it difficult falling and staying asleep had markedly reduced levels of the compound.

And those whose levels of the melatonin marker were above the middle of the range had a 75% lower chance of developing advanced prostate cancer than those with lower values.

Another finding of the study, which was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research-Prostate Cancer Foundation Conference on Advances in Prostate Cancer Research in San Diego, US, was that increased melatonin levels actually lowered overall prostate cancer risk by 31%; that discovery, however, was not statistically significant.

“Sleep loss and other factors can influence the amount of melatonin secretion or block it altogether, and health problems associated with low melatonin, disrupted sleep, and / or disruption of the circadian rhythm are broad, including a potential risk factor for cancer,” said Sarah Markt from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the leader of the study.

“Our results require replication, but support the public health implication of the importance of maintaining a stable light-dark and sleep-wake cycle,” she added.

Emotional problems and suicidal thoughts

Another recent study which looked at the sleep habits of almost 12,000 teenagers in 11 countries in Europe revealed that teens who had suicidal thoughts slept on average 36 minutes less per night as compared to those without such thoughts.

Further, those teens who had serious emotional problems slept on average about 30 minutes less per night than those without such issues.

In truth, this study, which was published online in Sleep Medicine, did not prove causality, but only a correlation. Even then, lack of sleep among teenagers had been previously linked in other studies to other adverse health effects, including hypertension or high blood pressure.

There are, however, other shortcomings of this study’s findings. Firstly, the youths came from many different climates and socio-cultural backgrounds, and this makes it more difficult to generalize the results. Further, the sleep data gathered was self-reported, and its accuracy could be affected due to incorrect recall, or the youths being out to “please or displease, or provoke, particularly in adolescents.”


As the evidence on the importance of a good night’s sleep mounts, it becomes clearer that this good health habit should form an important part of any healthy lifestyle.

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