A 2003 study published in the journal, Brain, Behavior and Immunity, showed a relationship between how well you sleep and how effectively you fight cancer. After analyzing previous studies, Stanford University psychiatrist David Spiegel, MD and colleague Sandra Sephton, MD stated that sleep problems alter the balance of at least two hormones that influence cancer cells.

One of these hormones is cortisol, the stress hormone that helps to regulate your immune system. Cortisol levels typically peak at dawn, after hours of sleep, and decline throughout the day.

Female night shift workers, who have higher rates of breast cancer than women who sleep normal hours, are more likely to have a “shifted cortisol rhythm,” in which their cortisol levels peak during the afternoon.  At least two studies have shown those women typically die earlier from breast cancer than the general population. People who wake up repeatedly during the night are also more likely to have abnormal cortisol patterns.

The other hormone affected by sleep is melatonin that may have antioxidant properties that help prevent damage to cells that can lead to cancer.

“There’s a definite hormonal pattern that is affected by sleep that in itself can predict a more rapid progression of cancer (David Spiegel, MD, Stanford University). The big problem for cancer patients is they take too much on themselves and don’t give enough time to help their bodies cope with the illness. “

The night is scarier then the day is for most people. So, if you’re lying in bed and can’t sleep, turn on the light.  It’s pointless to just lie in bed and not be able to sleep. If you can’t sleep, get up and do something; don’t just lie there staring at the ceiling.  Try listening to an audiobook. I find that reading can be difficult because it’s difficult to concentrate, especially when I’m upset.  An audiobook often solves this problem for me. Then, after awhile I go back to bed and fall asleep.

I know that after every night comes the morning. I just have to figure out how to get to it and then enjoy it.

On the flip side when I feel fatigued I don’t fight it because I know I’m not going to win. I just take a nap.