February 4th, 2014
There’s no question that plenty of sleep is good for you. Getting your necessary snooze hours benefits a body’s immune system, blood pressure and weight. But, according to a new study (Read the article) from the Harvard School of Public Health, there may be even more advantages to getting your z’s. Researchers found that men with higher melatonin levels –a hormone involved in regulating sleep–had a 75 percent lower risk of advanced prostate cancer, compared to men who hadn’t have high melatonin levels.
Researchers conducted a case-cohort study of 928 Icelandic men between 2002 and 2009. Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires regarding sleep disruption. And researchers collected first morning void urine samples, looking for urinary levels of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin, the main breakdown product of melatonin.
Information on prostate cancer diagnoses and mortality among men was obtained from the Icelandic Cancer Registry and the Causes of Death Registry through 2009.
In total, 135 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The results showed men who had reported sleep problems at baseline had lower 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels compared to those who reported no sleep problems. Furthermore, men whose 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels were higher than the median value had a decreased risk for advanced prostate cancer.
“Sleep loss and other factors can influence the amount of melatonin secretion or block it altogether, and health problems associated with low melatonin levels, disrupted sleep, and/or disruption of the circadian rhythm are broad, including a potential risk factor for cancer,” said Sarah C. Markt, M.P.H., doctoral candidate in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, in a press release (Read the Article).
“We found that men who had high melatonin levels had a 75 percent reduced risk for developing advanced prostate cancer compared with men who had lower levels of melatonin.”
While the statistical link was strong, Market noted that the findings need to be reproduced in a larger sample size before any public health recommendations can be made.
But men, before you start popping melatonin supplements, know that the study results likely have more to do with the carcinogenic effect of poor sleep in general, says Chris Winter, M.D., medical director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A better idea? Identify the bad habits that get in the way between you and some shut-eye. Going to bed at the same time every night, waking up at a consistent time and regular exercise can improve sleep. So can giving up your smartphone or tablet right before bed and no need to chemically control your melatonin levels!
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