Could Snoring Be a Whisper of Cancer? What Your Night Sounds Might Mean

Detecting your risk of dying from cancer might be as simple as listening to the sounds you make while you sleep. So, go ahead and set up a recorder in your bedroom because the playback could reveal a lot about your cancer risk.

Though snoring is often the subject of comedy skits, it’s no laughing matter. If you snore, toss and turn, and struggle to get a restful, deep sleep, you could be at a higher risk of dying from cancer.

A study conducted at the University of Washington in Seattle discovered that women treated for breast cancer who frequently snored and had poor sleep had a significantly higher chance of succumbing to their cancer compared to those who enjoyed deep sleep.

The science behind the connection between sleep and cancer

The link between sleep issues and cancer risk may be due to the effect interrupted sleep has on our body’s production of proteins that regulate sleep and protect against cancer.

One such protein, called “human period 2,” is responsible for aligning our daily sleep cycles with the natural pattern of daylight and defending our bodies against tumor growth. Poor sleep can hinder the proper functioning of human period 2, allowing tumors to develop or grow larger when cells become cancerous and divide uncontrollably.

According to researcher Tetsuya Gotoh, “when (human period 2 protein) is non-functional because it is either mutated or somehow modified, then it is unable to do its job and prevent the cells from dividing at certain times of the day.” This is especially troublesome when tumor suppressor genes are mutated, which occurs in over 80% of all cancer cases.

Snoring, sleep apnea, and cancer risk

If you struggle with snoring or sleep apnea (a condition that interrupts your breathing and sleep during the night) it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider for help. Here are some strategies to consider for managing your sleep and lowering your risk of cancer:

  1. Weight loss: Losing weight can often help relieve apnea. The more overweight you are, the more likely it is that shedding some pounds can make a difference. Studies suggest that even a modest amount of weight loss (about 10%) can lead to significant improvements in sleep apnea symptoms (source).

  2. Eliminate allergens: Consider removing foods from your diet that may be triggering allergic reactions and interfering with sleep. Some common food allergens include dairy, gluten, and eggs. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before attempting any dietary changes.

  3. Anti-apnea exercises: Various exercises can help improve the muscles responsible for maintaining an open airway during sleep, decreasing sleep apnea symptoms. Dr. Michael Cutler provides more details on these exercises here.

  4. CPAP therapy: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a common treatment for sleep apnea that involves wearing a mask connected to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air to the-upper-airways, keeping them open. Studies show that long-term adherence to CPAP treatment reduces both mortality and cancer incidence in patients with sleep apnea (source).

  5. Surgery: Surgical interventions may be recommended in cases of severe sleep apnea, particularly when other treatments have failed. Options include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), a procedure that removes excess tissue from the throat to enlarge the airway, and genioglossus advancement (GA), which involves repositioning the tongue to prevent it from blocking the airway (source).

In conclusion, improving your sleep quality and addressing sleep-related issues like snoring and apnea can significantly reduce cancer risks. Don’t ignore the nighttime noises your body makes – they could be a sign of a potentially larger problem that can impact your long-term health. Talk to a healthcare professional about how to develop a plan to improve your sleep, reduce snoring, and lower your risk of cancer.