Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Sleep disruptions are associated with prostate cancer

Content Creator
0 2 900

Difficulty sleeping is a common issue for men with prostate cancer, yet it’s rarely discussed. The symptoms of prostate cancer, side effects of treatments and other issues associated with the disease may be causing sleep problems. This week’s research blog looks at some of the latest research studying sleep for men with prostate cancer.

Sleep disorders

A sleep disorder is a condition that disrupts normal sleep patterns. There are many different types of sleep disorders that range in severity. Sleep disruptions can be caused by medical conditions, mental health issues, side effects from medications or lifestyle issues such as shift work. The chances of developing some types of sleep disorders increase with age.

Some common sleep disorders include:

Insomnia, which is the most common sleep disorder. People with insomnia either find it difficult to get to sleep or to stay asleep. They often feel sleepy during the day.

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders affect the timing of sleep. People affected by these disorders may have trouble staying awake during the day or falling asleep during the night.

Snoring, which gets worse with age or weight gain, can disrupt sleep.

Sleep apnoea occurs when normal breathing is partially blocked, and the struggle to breath normally leads to waking up.

Restless legs syndrome is an irresistible urge to move the legs that often disrupts sleep.

There are hundreds of other types of sleep disorders that can impact on a person’s quality-of-life.

Does poor sleep cause prostate cancer?

Some studies have shown that men with sleep disorders are more likely to get prostate cancer. One particularly good study from Taiwan was published last year. The researchers followed the fate of over 80,000 men. They could do this by accessing a detailed database of people using health insurance. They used this database to examine health records of men diagnosed with sleep disorders and compared them to men of similar ages, with similar health issues and medications – who did not have sleep disorders. In this study, diagnosis with any of hundreds of possible sleep disorders was recorded.

The results of the Taiwan study showed that men diagnosed with sleep disorders were more likely to be later diagnosed with prostate cancer. In the study, for each of 10,000 people followed-up per year, an average of 9.6 people were diagnosed with prostate cancer if they had a sleep disorder, compared to 6.4 people without a sleep disorder.

This type of study is very useful but can’t tell us the direct cause of the prostate cancer in these men. It’s unlikely that the poor sleep itself is directly causing the prostate cancer, but it might make some contribution. It’s probably the case that these two groups of people have many differences, one or more of which may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

The researchers were able to adjust their findings for age, other diseases, medications and occupation types (classified as white collar versus blue collar). However differences in smoking and alcohol consumption weren’t measured. Men who had these habits might have other unhealthy habits that put them at high risk of the cancer.

Despite some limitations, this large study showed a distinctly higher rate of prostate cancer for men diagnosed with sleep disorders. This could be useful information for identifying men who should consider PSA testing for early detection of prostate cancer.

Problems sleeping with prostate cancer

A recent study has asked how common sleep problems are, and the possible causes, for men with prostate cancer. Performed in Ireland, this study is part of a larger project called Prostate Cancer Treatment, your experience (PiCTure).

The researchers surveyed 3,348 men with prostate cancer about their sleep and other issues. Men joining the study were at least 2 years past their prostate cancer diagnosis. Most of the men were married and half were employed. Over half reported at least one other health problem. 51% of these men had radiotherapy, 47% reported taking hormone therapy (ADT) and 28% had prostate surgery.

Results from this study showed that 19% of these prostate cancer survivors reported significant problems sleeping. The researchers identified aspects of prostate cancer that may be the causes of these sleep issues. In order of most influence, these are:

  • Urinary symptoms, such as needing to go more often
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Side effects of hormone therapy (hot flushes and nocturia – waking due to needing to urinate)
  • Pain
  • Bowel issues

Results from the Irish study highlight a need that is seldomly addressed directly: poor sleep is one of the most common issues for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Knowing the possible causes of poor sleep for these men gives them a chance of getting help. These men and their doctors may find it useful to discuss strategies for reducing the effects of hot flushes, excess urination at night and anxiety or depression. A pain management plan may also help with sleep for people with cancer.


House Rules

To help keep this community a welcoming, supportive and caring place we have put together a small list of dos and don'ts for you to think about when posting on our forum, research blog or video gallery. For further information please see our  terms and conditions.

Adhere to PCFA’s five core values of Integrity, Optimism, Compassion, Respect and Commitment.

Our online forum is for you to share experiences with others and does not contain specific medical, counselling or legal advice.  If you require professional advice specific to your individual circumstances we encourage you to see a medical professional, legal professional or counsellor.

No commercial or promotional activity. While members may share information about resources they have found helpful, the PCFA Online Community forum should not be used for the promotion of goods and services. This includes commercial entities passing themselves off as individuals and people who frequently post links to external health professionals or other services.

Be kind to each other - many people using the community are going through a difficult time. A few kind words can go a long way. Please welcome new posters – it can be very nerve-wracking to post on the forum for the first time.

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, we encourage you to seek assistance and contact Beyond Blue Tel:1300 224 636 or Lifeline Tel:13 11 14

Speak your mind freely, but please be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others - you might not always agree, but you can agree to disagree in a peaceful manner.

Don't use offensive language -if a user is found to be using offensive language during their conversations the moderators reserve the right to edit the thread, without warning.

Don't use all capital letters in your posts - it's considered ‘shouting' online and it makes posts difficult to read.

Give each other the benefit of the doubt - please remember that it is all too easy for the tone and meaning of posts to be misinterpreted. Think carefully before replying to a discussion. it It is important to remember that things written rather than said can feel much stronger, so please bear this in mind when reading other people's messages.

Please respect the moderators - their job is to keep the forum safe and constructive so that everybody gets to have his or her fair say.

Stay on topic - try to focus on the original topic. In particular, don't change subject in the middle of an existing thread - just start a new thread.

Read what's already on the forum before posting - you may be repeating what others have already said or asked.

We want PCFA's Online Community to be a secure and helpful environment for all of the community. So please remember that by using PCFA's Online Community you are agreeing to follow our terms and conditions.