Poor sleep and Cancer risk, and ways to improve sleep quality

Research published yesterday in the Lancet shows that bowel cancer rates are rising in the UK, Canada and elsewhere and that young people are at more risk than the over 75s. It showed that people who averaged less than six hours of sleep a night (that was me) had an almost 50 percent increase in the risk of colorectal cancer compared with people sleeping at least seven hours a night and that young people are now at more risk of developing colon cancer than the over 75s.

The study published yesterday is the latest piece of research to indicate that bowel cancer risks increase with poor sleep, whether that is short sleep, excessively long sleep (often linked with poor sleep quality) or sleep apnoea. The ideal amount of sleep seems to be 7–8 h per night. I have included references to other research papers on poor sleep and cancer below. 

Why does poor quality sleep increase our risk of cancer? Researchers suggest that this is because sleep regulates our endocrine, immune, and metabolic functions.

Like many of us, have had my own brush with cancer, and watched loved people die with cancer. Some of the things which reduce our cancer risk also help our sleep quality - increasing vegetable intake, decreasing sugar, for example. And we tend to eat less and regulate our weight better when we sleep well, thus reducing another risk factor for cancer.

The Zeez Sleep Pebble is designed to enhance sleep quality and encourage deep sleep. In 2017 we did detailed surveys of our users. These surveys showed that before using the Zeez 87% users slept for less than 6 hours. After using it for a month, that figure had dropped to 13%. Of course, I can’t claim that the Zeez will reduce your risk of cancer, but I can suggest that you use it and see whether it helps your sleep. I would use it alongside a good diet and healthy lifestyle. Other devices might help too - the  Philips Smartsleep, if you are under 50 and suffer from a lack of sleep time, rather than an ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, and the Dreem headband (best if you naturally sleep on you back – the sensors can be uncomfortable). I wouldn’t recommend sleeping pills for a long term sleep issue – they tend to worsen sleep quality even though they prolong sleep duration, and are linked with lower life expectancy.


Other studies




Anna McKay