How Important is Sleep for Women’s Health?

The Doctor Weighs In
6 min readJan 23, 2019

By Agatha Singer

Photo Source: Adobe Stock Photos

It’s an established fact that sleep has a profound effect on our health. In particular, some recent studies indicate that sleep issues and even schedules have some unique effects on women’s health.

Despite extensive studies, scientists have yet to fully understand the implications of sleep disorders, but each new piece of research contributes to the development of knowledge which can help with the management and prevention of some diseases on a global scale.

Early Risers Have a Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

According to a recent study by the National Cancer Research Institute, women who are early risers have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. The so-called ‘larks’ function better during the first half of the day and have an astounding 40% lower risk of developing this particular disease.

Moreover, the study indicated that every additional hour of sleep beyond the 6–8 hours of recommended daily rest increases that same risk by 20%. While Dr. Rebecca Richmond, a member of the team behind the study, states that the matter requires further investigation, she does highlight that these results are consistent with previous research. This means that changing our sleeping habits can be an important step in the prevention of cancer, which claims over 500,000 lives every year.

This study analyzed the data of 228,951 women from the Breast Cancer Association Consortium and 180,215 women from the UK Biobank project. The team used the Mendelian randomization method during this research.

Based upon the acquired data, and previous studies of night-shift work and exposure to light at night, the team of researchers concluded that changing our sleep habits and thus adapting the entire circadian rhythm to that of a ‘lark’ can have protective qualities against breast cancer. The scientists do stress that the risk factors for the condition are far more complex and as such, this change does not offer guaranteed protection. However, the data speaks for itself and clearly shows that this is a factor important enough to make the effort of changing worthwhile.

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