Sleep problems may double prostate cancer risk

There's an old proverb that says a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book. I couldn't agree more, especially when it comes to sleep and prostate cancer.

While everyone is on board with laughter being the best medicine, way too many of us choose to ignore the second half of that wise prescription. And if you're guilty of burning the candle at both ends, you should know it can have devastating consequences for your health, as indicated by the study below on sleep and prostate cancer.

As I've explained before, a quality night's sleep is critical for staying healthy. In fact, if you continue dodging the Sandman, lack of sleep could be the first domino in a disastrous fall towards disease, such as an increased risk for prostate cancer. Eventually, sleep problems can even lead to early death.

And I wish I could say that I'm being dramatic here, but I'm not.

Poor sleep means poor health

Not getting enough shuteye could cause your weight to balloon and send your cholesterol numbers skyrocketing. According to one Uppsala University study last year, a lack of sleep stimulates appetite areas in your brain literally leading to a hungry brain. And let's get real, who amongst us has ever made a good midnight snack decision?

Another study, published in The American Journal of Human Biology, concluded that getting less than six hours of sleep a night is linked with a higher body-mass index (BMI), or obesity. But wait, it gets even worse.

Poor sleep is also linked to blood-sugar problems and diabetes. A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago uncovered a critical link between how well you sleep and how well you metabolize sugar. Volunteers were twice as likely to have type-2 diabetes if they also had sleep problems.

And a study published last year confirmed that not getting to bed on time wreaks havoc with your fat cells. Without enough quality sleep the ability of your fat cells to respond to insulin can drop by as much as 30 percent.

Sleep deprivation has even been linked with low sperm counts and shrunken testicles. And now researchers from the University of Iceland in Reykjavik are saying that sleep problems could double a man's risk of prostate cancer, making poor sleep and prostate cancer a dangerous combination.

Protect your prostate with sleep

According to the study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers followed 2,102 men ranging in age from 67 to 96, testing the connection between sleep and prostate cancer. Participants were questioned about their sleep habits, including if they took drugs to sleep, had trouble falling asleep, had trouble with waking up in the night, or had trouble getting back to sleep when they woke up prematurely.

In the end a full 8.7 percent of the group had severe sleep problems, and another 5.7 were even worse off, reporting very severe sleep troubles. None of the volunteers had prostate cancer when the study began, but five years later 6.4 percent of the group was diagnosed with the disease.

After doing some number crunching—and adjusting for age—the researchers found that the guys who had trouble falling sleeping were roughly 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer. And those who reported having trouble staying asleep had double the risk of being diagnosed with the cancer.

The researchers even adjusted for symptoms of nocturia—the midnight march to the bathroom that often accompanies prostate problems—to be sure that undiagnosed prostate issues weren't responsible for any of the recorded sleep problems, and the results remained the same.

One thing's for sure: if you're not already taking your sleep time seriously it's time to change that. If you keep skipping out on quality shuteye, one day you could wake up fat, diabetic, and dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

But don't fall for quick-fix sleep drugs. They can come with their own set of problems (sedative drugs could cause your risk of dying to skyrocket by a staggering 450 percent ... click here to get the whole story), and seldom give you the restful quality sleep your body needs anyway. Instead, start by easing up on stimulants like coffee, tea, and soda. If you're particularly sensitive, some supplements like ginseng and B12 can be stimulating.

If anxiety is at the center of your sleep problems, I've found 500 mg of magnesium before bedtime sometimes does the trick. And if you're under 40 years old l-tryptophan may help. But if you're over 40, melatonin may be a better option.

Work with a doctor skilled in natural medicine to figure out the best choices for you, and before you know it you could be saying hello to the Sandman and goodbye to a skyrocketing prostate-cancer risk.