In a new study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, researchers from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki looked at data from more that 19,000 people. Specifically, their age, BMI, smoking status and booze consumption – all factors that can increase your risk of developing cancer. In addition, they analysed their sleeping habits, recording how often each participant experienced a complete closure of their airways per hour of shut-eye, as well as how many times their blood oxygen levels dropped below 90 per cent.
These findings led the researchers to conclude that obstructed sleep apnoea (OSA) may play a role in the development of certain types of cancers. Interestingly, however, this isn’t the case for both genders:
“This link was especially strong in the women that we analysed and less so in the men,” the study’s lead author, Dr Anthanasia Pataka explained. “It suggests that severe OSA could be an indicator for cancer in women, though more research is needed to confirm these findings.”
While the most common cancer they reported in women was breast (for men it was prostate,) the researchers didn’t specify whether this could cause different types of the disease.
“Cancer may differ between men and women because of factors such as how hormones affect tumour growth, how the different types of cancer that were more prevalent in men and women are affected by low blood oxygen levels, or how gender-specific exposure to cigarette smoking may play a role,” Dr Pataka added.
The classic symptoms of OSA include sleepiness, snoring and stopping breathing during the night, although fatigue, insomnia, depression and morning headaches may also be a tip-off. Another good way to keep an eye on your sleep quality is by tracking your sleep to see how long you spend in light, deep and REM stages each night (the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active does a stellar job of this). Around 20 per cent of your overall sleep should be deep as this is essential for your body to repair and recharge itself. If you're finding that you're not hitting that goal, it could be due to OSA so speak to your doctor.