Sleep Found to be a Predictor of Survival for Breast Cancer Patients

The study found that higher sleep efficiency was strongly linked with a reduced risk of death over the following six years. The average survival period was 68.9 months for efficient sleepers compared to 33.2 months for participants with poor sleep efficiency. Further analysis revealed that a 10 percent rise in sleep efficiency lowered the estimated danger of death by 32 percent. There was no connection between sleep duration and survival

According to lead study author, Oxana Palesh, PhD, “”We were surprised to see that the significance of the link between sleep quality and overall survival. Sound sleep appears to have a strongly protective effect, even with advanced breast cancer.””

For the study, researchers examined 97 women with advanced breast cancer who had an average age of 55 years. Objective sleep variables were measured by way of a wrist monitoring device for three consecutive days. Overall, participants spent close to eight hours in bed at night but slept for only 6.5 hours.

According to the study authors, this study is the first of its kind to show the long-term harmful effects of sleep efficiency on survival in women with advanced cancer. Although the underlying mechanism behind the relationship between sleep quality and advanced breast cancer survival is unclear, the researchers claim that sleep interruptions may cause weakened immune functioning or diminished hormonal stress responses that are more directly responsible for the drop in survival.

The significance of this study is further amplified by the fact that nearly half of all cancer patients face difficulties sleeping. In the case of breast cancer, sleep disturbances during treatment can be the result of a number of sources, including the emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis, the physical impact of its treatment and the side effects of medications, even including those prescribed to lower other treatment related side effects. The most common sleep disturbing side effects include fatigue, pain, hot flashes, nausea and gastrointestinal problems, and anxiety.

To get a good night’s sleep a cancer patient should first ask their doctor to review all prescription and over-the-counter treatment medications, including herbal remedies and dietary supplements, to determine if anything is directly contributing to sleep issues. The physician may suggest changing your daily medication schedule to reduce the severity of the problem.

It may also be beneficial to change aspects of an individual’s daily or nighttime routine. Try to practice good “”sleep hygiene””, which requires maintaining a consistent schedule for waking and sleeping, and avoiding anything close to bed time that could interfere with a sound night’s sleep.


Written by Elijah Lamond

Empowered Doctor Senior Editor