Yoga Could Help Cancer Survivors Overcome Sleep Issues
September 1, 2013

Yoga Could Help Cancer Survivors Overcome Sleep Issues

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Cancer survivors who suffer from insomnia could improve the quality of their sleep if they started regularly practicing yoga, according to new research appearing in a recent edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study authors reported participants, who were primarily women with a history of breast cancer, reported “significant” improvements in the quality and duration of their slumber when they attended twice-weekly yoga classes, Reuters Health reporter Veronica Hackethal, MD explained on Friday.

Furthermore, men and women who attended the 75-minute sessions also reduced their use of sleep aids by 21 percent, while patients in standard care actually increased their reliance on those medications by five percent a week, added PsychCentral Associate News Editor Traci Pedersen.

“Both groups showed noticeable improvements in sleep quality; however, the yoga group showed significant improvements in sleep latency (amount of time it takes to fall asleep), sleep duration, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances, subjective sleep quality and daytime dysfunction during the intervention period,” Pedersen added.

According to the researchers, between 30 percent and 90 percent of all cancer survivors report impaired sleep quality following their treatment, and in some cases the issues are severe enough to increase morbidity and mortality. Preliminary evidence had suggested yoga could improve sleep quality amongst those men and women.

In order to further investigate the issue, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center, Stanford University, the Wichita Community Clinical Oncology Program in Kansas and the Grand Rapids Community Clinical Oncology Program in Michigan recruited 410 cancer survivors, each of whom had been experiencing at least moderate sleep disruption between two and 24 months following their surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to participate in a randomized, controlled clinical trial.

The subjects, who were 96 percent female and had a mean age of 54 years, were randomly assigned to receive either standard care alone, or standard care plus four weeks of yoga intervention using the specially-designed Yoga for Cancer Survivors (YOCAS) program. The YOCAS program combined breathing exercises, mediation, and postures from both Gentle Hatha and Restorative yoga, they explained. Their sleep quality was then assessed using Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and actigraphy, the authors said.

“Participants in the yoga group showed statistically significant improvements in sleep quality between the pre- and post-intervention period; the control group did not,” Pedersen said. “Furthermore, 90 percent of the yoga intervention group who completed the study said they found the program helpful for improving sleep quality, and 63 percent said they would highly recommend it to other cancer survivors.”

“What's exciting about this study is that it brought yoga out to people where they're receiving care and still showed that there's benefits to yoga participation,” Dr. Donald Abrams, an oncologist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health. “The data from other studies is quite clear that yoga improves quality of life for breast cancer patients, and this study confirms that. We still don't know how it works in men with colon or prostate cancer, for example, because those patients are never really involved in these trials.”