How Lack of Sleep May Influence Mesothelioma and Other Cancers

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Living with mesothelioma is stressful. Stress is one of many factors that can disrupt sleep. And if you are coping with mesothelioma, you need your sleep. But lack of sleep may have adverse effects beyond just making you feel crabby. It may spike tumor growth.

A groundbreaking study on the effect of interrupted sleep on tumor growth recently was published in the Journal of Cancer Research. Dr. Fahed Hakim and his research team at the University of Chicago experimented on two groups of mice. The control group was allowed to sleep normally. The other group was repeatedly wakened. After a week, cancerous tumor cells were injected into all the mice.

Within four weeks, the size of the tumors – as well as the amount of cancer cells — in the mice whose sleep had been interrupted was double that in the mice who slept soundly.

And the tumors in the sleep-disrupted mice were more invasive; they spread into the adjacent tissue, muscles and bones. The tumors in the mice that had slept better were more contained.

The message is that we need to make a serious effort to avoid lack of sleep.

“Sleep fragmentation is widespread, even among healthy people, but it has negative long-term effects,” Hakim said in an accompanying interview. “Thomas Edison did not realize when he invented the light bulb that this would mean we would never be in complete darkness.”

Hakim stresses the importance of preparing properly for sleep. “Sleep is not the default of being awake; you don’t just unplug yourself and go to sleep. It is something that requires taking a kind of action, such as creating the right atmosphere before getting into bed. Calming down by reading or taking a shower or whatever works for you.”

Here are some additional tips to avoid lack of sleep from WebMD:

Give your bedroom a makeover. Make your sleeping area conducive to rest by keeping it dark and at a cool, comfortable level.

Establish a regular routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. People who frequently switch their sleep times experience something akin to jet lag.

Put away your gadgets. The latest research suggests that artificial light coming from laptop screens, TVs, etc. suppresses the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. So give yourself a technology curfew and turn off those screens at least an hour before bedtime.

Avoid alcohol before bed. Contrary to popular opinion, drinking alcohol before bedtime is not a good idea since it disrupts sleep and causes nighttime awakenings.

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