As a cancer patient, you're bombarded by nutrition and exercise information — and hopefully by information on sleep as well. Sleep is turning into a missing link in health, influencing not only how you feel in the morning but also how your body reacts to extraordinary circumstances.
Sleep, Melatonin, Estrogen, and Cancer
When you get a good night's sleep, your body's production of the hormone melatonin should be at a decent level. If you start to get less sleep than you need, your production of melatonin drops. This is bad for two reasons. One, less melatonin means less ability for your body to fight off free radicals, thus lowering your defenses against repeated disease. Two, less melatonin leads to less regulation of estrogen, which can also increase your chances of developing disease.
Sleep also shores up your body's health in general, allowing your immune system to function better. Treatments may be more effective, and you may feel better in general over time simply because you're well-rested.
Thus it follows that more sleep can help your body recover from cancer, fight off a recurrence of the disease, and fight the development of new disease. So if you're not sleeping well now, here's your chance to turn things around.
Stress, Sleep, and Feedback Loops
Adding to the fun is the fact that being in the middle of cancer treatments isn't the most relaxing state to be in mentally. The stress — from the idea of being ill, to dealing with side effects, to fending off people who want to repeatedly talk about how awful you must feel in their estimation — can make it harder to sleep. That creates a terrible feedback loop in which you get less sleep, feel worse, possibly do worse in treatment, and then sleep less as you find out things aren't working that well.
Make Better Sleep Your Personal Project
Rather than worry even more about this, turn it around. Now you have a chance to revamp your sleep hygiene and schedule and set yourself up for some of the best sleep ever. This can range from simply training yourself to stick to a sleep schedule to getting a new mattress. A few minutes of meditation before bed can help as well. Start small and work your way up as better habits take hold and as you discover what's really creating the sleep disruptions.
Do not take melatonin supplements unless your doctor says it's ok. You want to be sure there are no medication interactions or negative side effects first.
Better sleep will at least make you feel more rested, and it has a good track record in helping people recover from illness. You still have to follow your treatment protocols, and there's never a guarantee that all disease will suddenly disappear, but you can't go wrong by getting more sleep during and after your cancer treatment.Share
29 October 2019