They say the early bird gets the worm. But you know what she doesn’t get? Breast cancer, apparently.
That’s right: Morning people enjoy a significantly lower risk of the dreaded disease. That’s the takeaway of a recently published study from a team of UK researchers. And it just goes to show what a profound difference something as simple as sleep can make to your health.
Profound enough to save your life, if these latest findings are anything to go by…
Early risers dodge disease
This was a huge study, featuring upwards of half a million women. The focus was for researchers to examine how sleep traits contribute to breast cancer development. (And you couldn’t pick a more worthwhile focus, in my humble opinion.)
Researchers looked at data from the UK Biobank and a breast cancer study courtesy of the Breast Cancer Association Consortium — the biggest pool of data from breast cancer patients collected to date. And their analysis yielded some pretty important results.
For starters, they found that women who were “morning people” faced a whopping 40 percent lower risk of breast cancer than their “night owl” peers. But that’s not all. Results also showed that sleeping longer than eight hours a night boosted breast cancer risk by 20 percent for every additional hour spent in bed.
These scientists based their conclusions on questionnaire answers. So their conclusions only really offer so much information. And ultimately, dodging a cancer diagnosis might not be as simple as setting your alarm an hour earlier every morning.
Nonetheless, this study reinforces a lot of what we already know about circadian rhythms and disease prevention…
Melatonin is more than a sleep hormone
We already know that disruptions to natural sleep patterns — like shift work, for example — can directly impact your cancer risk. But this latest analysis is a timely reminder that good sleep habits run much deeper than just clocking in eight hours, and calling it a night.
The Goldilocks principle very much applies here. I’ve mentioned it here before, but there is such a thing as too much sleep. And yes, it can be lethal — not just raising your risk of cancer, but heart disease and diabetes, too.
It’s just as important to remember that when you sleep is just as important as how long you sleep. Do your best to avoid defying your body’s natural clock. Making sure that your evenings are dark and your mornings are bright plays a critical role in cementing reliable sleep patterns.
Keeping your circadian rhythms consistent ensures that you’ll fall asleep — and stay asleep — when you should. Especially since your pineal gland is wired to rely on environmental cues to generate melatonin (your body’s sleep-inducing natural hormone) at bedtime.
What a lot of people fail to realize is that melatonin is much more than just a sleep hormone. It also fights cancer, diabetes, migraines, arthritis… and a whole lot more. So it’s no wonder that women who rise and retire with the sun suffer less chronic disease.
I devoted an entire article to the myriad of benefits of melatonin supplementation back in the September 2013 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“Popular sleep aid takes on cancer, diabetes, migraines, and more”). Subscribers have access to this article and more in my archives. So, if you haven’t yet, consider signing up today. This one’s definitely worth a read.
“Women who are ‘larks’ have a lower risk of developing breast cancer: Analyses of genetic variants show the effect of sleep on breast cancer risk.” ScienceDaily, 11/05/18. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181105200733.htm)