What is Insomnia and How Does Insomnia Affect Cancer Patients?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and be unable to fall asleep again. You may still feel tired when you wake up.

In this article I will briefly discuss how insomnia can cause or worsen various health issues. For example insomnia may aggravate cardiovascular problems as well as endocrine gland disorders. However, the focus of my report will be on the effects of insomnia on cancer. This is related to melatonin production in the body and also to the cell cycle.

Changes in the circadian clock and biological clock further cause fluctuations in the levels of melatonin in the human body. Melatonin is a hormone mainly produced by the pineal gland in the brain, in response to darkness. It plays an important role in regulating sleep patterns, which will be discussed in more detail.

What is the circadian rhythm or circadian clock?

The circadian rhythm or circadian clock is a term used to refer to the internal process that maintains the human body’s sleep-wake cycle. This is a natural process and melatonin production plays a vital role in it.

Sources of melatonin, a hormone that can treat insomnia

The main sources of melatonin in nature are as follows:

  1. plants, 
  2. algae, 
  3. bacterium,
  4. human body.

Insomnia and the development of cancer

Research has shown that a reduction in the level of melatonin in the body increases the chances of cancer development.

Examples of the types of cancers that may develop are as given in the list below:

  1. ovary
  2. uterus
  3. endometrium
  4. prostate
  5. leukemia
  6. breast cancer (breast cancer is the most likely type)

Note: Breast cancer may also be caused by a change in the function of estrogen receptors.

Read this also: The Effect of Biological Clock & Molecular Clock in Cancer

How is the circadian rhythm regulated?

The circadian rhythm is controlled by approximately 8 genes in humans.

Each of these 8 genes plays an essential role in certain processes of the cell.

The main processes are:

  • Cell cycle
  • Checkpoint
  • Apoptosis

Melatonin and its various roles

The most important and only role that has been explained by science is related to sleep and the circadian clock of the body. Melatonin is a hormone that’s responsible for the adjustment of the circadian rhythm (24-hour internal clock) and it also helps with regulating sleep patterns. That’s why insomnia affects levels of melatonin in the body.

So how does Melatonin regulate the Circadian Clock of the human body?

It affects proteins associated with the cell cycle and apoptosis. In simple terms, melatonin levels increase greatly at night. This caused the body and mind to wind down and prepare for sleep. Thus, melatonin encourages a healthy sleeping routine. As mentioned before, melatonin levels increase due to darkness at night. That’s why being in bright light at night can interfere with melatonin production in the body.

Circadian Rhythm, melatonin and the development of cancer (conclusion)

To conclude, cancer develops in the body when the cell cycle, described above, is disrupted. When the cell cycle is disrupted, melatonin production is interrupted and carcinogenesis occurs. Thus, sleeping on time and receiving the required hours of sleep according to your age is very important. More than just being good for health, it can reduce the chances of cancer developing in your body.


Kormi, S., Motalleb, G., Kerachian, M. 2016. The Effect of Biological Clock & Molecular Clock in CancerThe Cancer Press 2(4): 64-66. DOI:10.15562/tcp.30



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *