Friday, February 29, 2008

Melatonin and breast cancer

I think I may have mentioned that I get insomnia - have had it for years, ever since I started in a tenure-track job with the pressures associated with teaching, and the "publish or perish" attitude. Then, when my son was born in 2000, I just got used to operating on 6 or 7 hours of sleep and being tired all the time.

Then, in 2002, after undergoing chemo with AC, I developed hot flashes that would wake me up at night, too.

I continued to have insomnia, though, and I always attributed it to stress. My insomnia seems to be a little worse now under Xeloda and Tykerb, so I asked some other breast cancer folks what they use to get a good night's sleep. One person, Liz Kreger at, mentioned that she uses melatonin.

I've been meaning to do some research related to melatonin and how that might help sleep. I just found one really interesting report on the web. The address is:

Basically, according to this study based in Boston, the researchers found that women who have low melatonin levels were 70% more likely to develop breast cancer!!!!! The theory is that your immune system works at night, when you're sleeping. If you can't sleep, your immune system isn't able to work as well as it should.

Low melatonin is associated with lack of sleep. The article also states that your body's melatonin decreases when there's a lot of light at night.

Since my son was a baby, I have used night lights - in my room or an adjacent one, in the bathroom, and in Eddie's room. I know it stems from an incident one night when Eddie was less than 12 months old: he was in our bed and I got up at night to use the restroom and as soon as I got up, he rolled off the bed onto the floor. It had been really dark in our room, so I didn't realize how close to the edge I was. I'm also blind as a bat - really really near-sighted - and I find I like the light so I can see better.

A lot of stuff about insomnia says to make sure your room is dark, but I kinda pooh-poohed that idea because I didn't understand the rationale. I'm also so used to the night light now, especially when I wake up and have to use the restroom. But, you know what? I'm gonna take the damn thing out - maybe that'll help me sleep. Then, after a few nights, if I don't sleep any better, I'm gonna try melatonin.

Interesting, huh?

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