Cancer prevention, sleep and obesity: Is there a link?
Studies show that getting the right amount of sleep is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding obesity, which has been linked to colorectal, breast and kidney cancers.
Struggling to lose weight? It may not have anything to do with your diet or activity level.
Studies show that getting the right amount of sleep is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding obesity. Obesity has been linked to an increased risk for several types of cancer, including colorectal, post-menopausal breast, endometrial, esophageal, kidney and pancreatic.
“How long, how well, how deep we sleep, what time we sleep and what happens during sleep all effect our metabolism,” says Carol Harrison, a senior exercise physiologist.
Sleep and your metabolism
The simple equation for weight loss is to burn more calories or energy than consumed. But anyone who has been on a diet knows that it’s not nearly that simple. Studies show that sleep may be a part of the reason why.
Our internal clocks are called circadian rhythms. The circadian rhythm determines our sleep patterns, our heart rate and blood pressure.
“If our internal timing – in other words, our circadian rhythm – doesn’t match our external timing, then it can have a negative effect on our metabolisms,” Harrison says.
One study found that building up a sleep debt – less than adequate sleep – over a few days disrupted hormone levels. In some instances, study participants ability to process sugar in their blood declined to the level of diabetics.
Studies also show that those who do not get enough sleep have trouble exercising and staying active enough to lose weight and lower their cancer risk.
Tips for getting a good night’s rest
“Both a lack of sleep and obesity are big problems for people today,” Harrison says. “It’s no surprise that one may be affecting the other.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one-third of adults are obese. A person is considered obese if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
In addition, one in three adults do not get enough sleep each night. The average adult needs about eight hours of sleep each night. Compounding the problem, being overweight is the leading cause of sleep apnea.
If our internal timing – in other words, our circadian rhythm – doesn’t match our external timing, then it can have a negative effect on our metabolisms.
Follow these tips to get better sleep:
- Set a consistent sleep schedule.
- Get regular exercise.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Limit caffeine, and avoid alcohol and nicotine.
If you think your sleep schedule is affecting your ability to lose weight, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 888-774-3020.