Men have ‘a higher risk of cancer’ if they wake up regularly at night

Regularly waking up for more than 30 minutes has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. (Getty Images)
Regularly waking up for more than 30 minutes has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Waking up in the night is a regular occurrence for some of us, but new research has suggested that continuously getting a broken night's sleep can have health implications for some men.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that men who woke up for at least half an hour in the night were 15-20% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

A total number of 34, 260 British men participated in the research, by National Cancer Institute in Maryland. It involved wearing a watch monitor to measure any potential sleep disruption.

At the start of the study, none of the participants reported having prostate cancer. But in the post-study follow-up period over 7.6 years, men who had at least 30 minutes of wakefulness at night were 15-20% more likely to develop prostate tumours, compared to men who had less than 30 minutes of wakefulness after falling asleep.

Overall, the total number of hours spent asleep each night and timing of sleeping were not associated with risk of prostate cancer.

While further research is needed, the study indicated a link between higher wakefulness after sleep onset—a measure of poor sleep quality— and a greater prostate cancer risk.

No doubt the latest news may be concerning for the 28% of Brits who wake up more than three times every night.

But what exactly is causing this night-time restlessness and what potential harm is it doing to our health?

The UK is suffering from a sleep crisis, new research has revealed. (Getty Images)
The UK is suffering from a sleep crisis, new research has revealed. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Why we're waking up so much in the night

Waking up frequently during the night can be attributed to a variety of factors, and understanding these reasons is very important for addressing and improving your sleep quality.

Denise Iordache, sleep therapist & founder of JoySpace Therapy has outlined some reasons so many of us are regularly pulled form the land of nod.

  • Stress and anxiety: Elevated stress levels or anxiety can lead to frequent awakenings. "Racing thoughts and worry may disrupt your ability to maintain a continuous and restful sleep," Iordache explains.

  • Environmental factors: Uncomfortable room temperature, excessive noise, or uncomfortable bedding can contribute to disruptions in your sleep, causing you to wake up intermittently.

  • Sleep disorders: Conditions such as insomnia, sleep apnoea, or restless legs syndrome can cause disruptions in your sleep pattern, leading to frequent awakenings.

  • Poor sleep hygiene: Irregular sleep schedules, inconsistent bedtime routines, and engaging in stimulating activities close to bedtime can negatively impact your sleep.

  • Caffeine consumption: Consuming caffeine or other stimulants, particularly close to bedtime, can interfere with your ability to maintain a deep and uninterrupted sleep.

  • Alcohol and medications: Certain medications and alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle, leading to awakenings during the night.

  • Pre-bed screen time: Exposure to electronic screens before bedtime, due to the blue light emitted, can interfere with your natural sleep-wake cycle and disrupt your sleep.

Thankfully, there are some ways to overturn the wake-up issue.

"To address these disruptions, consider adopting healthy sleep habits, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a conducive sleep environment, managing stress through relaxation techniques, and seeking professional help if sleep disturbances persist," advises Iordache.

"If the issue persists or worsens, consulting with a healthcare professional or sleep specialist is advisable to identify and address any underlying sleep disorders or medical conditions."

Couple sleeping in bed. (Getty Images)
Improving your circadian rhythm can help you get a better night's sleep. (Getty Images) (Getty)

How to improve your circadian rhythm to get a better night's sleep

Prioritise consistent sleep and wake times

If you're assuming you might be able to catch-up on lost sleep at the weekends, you might need to think again as consistency is key when it comes to getting a better night's snooze. Iordache recommends establish a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

"This helps synchronise your body's internal clock, optimising your circadian rhythm," she explains. "Studies found that irregular sleep schedules are associated with poorer sleep quality and disruptions in circadian rhythm."

Maximise exposure to natural light

Spending time outdoors, especially in the morning, helps to expose yourself to natural light. "This exposure helps regulate your circadian rhythm and reinforces the body's natural wake-sleep cycle," Iordache explains. "Research highlights the positive impact of morning light exposure on sleep and circadian alignment."

Woman waking up in the morning. (Getty Images)
Exposure to natural light can help you get a better night's sleep. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Limit blue light exposure before bed

Iordache suggests trying to minimise exposure to screens emitting blue light, such as phones and computers, at least an hour before bedtime.

"Blue light exposure can make it harder for your body to signal that it's time to sleep," she explains. "Research suggests that exposure to blue light in the evening can delay the circadian clock and negatively impact sleep."

By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, Iordache says you can positively influence your circadian rhythm and create an environment conducive to a more restorative and fulfilling sleep experience.

"Remember, small changes can lead to significant improvements in your overall sleep quality and wellbeing," she adds.

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