The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) has linked regular lack of sleep to an increased cancer risk, showing a 36% increase in breast cancer risk amongst women who work a night shift for more than 30 years. According to their figures the risk for women who worked a night shift for less than 30 years dropped to 8%, whilst that for those who never worked a night shift was 1%. This is a significant elevation of risk, and whilst I did not have the time to look at their research protocols, it is certainly consistent with my understanding of the workings of the human body.
The current explanation and research hinges around the action of a hormone called melatonin, however I will look at this problem from my perspective, which includes Greco-Arab and Chinese medicine as well as indications from contemporary research.
The body has a natural cycle which is often referred to as the body-clock, there is a whole area of contemporary research on circadian rhythms which looks at this. In Greco-Arab, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine take this fundamental rhythm as a foundation of the body’s operation and build much of their therapeutic approach around this. This inbuilt body-clock responds to electro-magnetic fluctuations, light and dark changes and other subtle factors that we have yet to discover. At around 15:00 the body begins its detoxification aspect of the cycle and will continue with its detoxification until 3:00 in the early hours of the morning. We naturally begin to wind down once it gets dark, however our modern lifestyles and artificial lighting confuse this natural response. Between 21:00 and 22:00 our bowels will tend to shut down and we rarely stool after this time until after 5:00 in the morning. Between 21:00 and 3:00 the deep repair and detoxification occur to the organic systems and specifically the fluid or water body – that aspect of us that circulates body fluids, detoxifying and nutrifying ourselves. From dusk and throughout the dark period we produce the hormone melatonin which amongst its many functions is an extremely powerful antioxidant, nullifying the ill effects of free radicals and aiding in the cycle of detoxification, which requires that we be asleep to work optimally. Lack of sleep at these times will cause the build up of toxin and the gradual breakdown of the effectiveness of the detoxification cycle, leaving the organs that do so depleted and overworked as they try to play catch up with less energy. The gradual buildup will cause a host of conditions expressing toxic buildup and the weakest systems will fall. At the end of many of these pathways may lie cancer, the body’s final attempt at rectifying the balance, in a profoundly imbalanced manner.
It seems that one of the most powerful tools we have in our arsenal of healthy living is sleep. Sleep well for your health depends upon it!
Among His Signs are your sleep by night and day
and your seeking after His bounty.
There are certainly Signs in that for people who hear
[Quran: The Romans: 23]