Cancer patients often have sleep problems and increased fatigue. Studies suggest that over two-thirds of cancer survivors experience sleep disturbances and persistent fatigue months and even years after cancer treatment. There are hardly any treatments available to relieve these problems. Furthermore, sleep medications have side effects and are often ineffective. Now research reports that regular yoga practice may improve sleep, boost energy and promote a better quality of life. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The randomized controlled study, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, examined the effect of yoga on sleep in cancer survivors. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, administered either a yoga program (yoga group) or usual follow-up care (control group) to 310 cancer survivors for four weeks. About 75% of patient were breast cancer survivors.
The yoga group participated in twice weekly 75-minute yoga sessions. The yoga program, called YOCAS (Yoga for Cancer Survivors), included gentle Hatha and restorative yoga poses, breathing and meditation. The yoga sessions were led by Yoga-Alliance certified instructors trained in the YOCAS program.
The researchers found that the yoga participants had improved sleep quality, more energy and a better quality of life, compared to the control group. The yoga group used fewer sleep pills than the control group. Findings also revealed that the control group had more fatigue and poorer quality of life.
The Main Point
“This is great news for cancer survivors who deal with persistent and debilitating side effects from their cancer and its treatments long after their primary therapy ends. There are few treatments for the sleep problems and fatigue survivors experience that work for very long, if at all,” says lead investigator Karen Mustian, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Radiation Oncology and Community and Preventive Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in a news release. “Yoga is a safe and simple technique that can have multiple benefits for survivors who are looking for solutions.”
This study is significant because it suggests that gentle yoga practice is a safe, drug-free and noninvasive treatment for patients suffering with sleep problems and fatigue.
Are you a practicing yoga to help manage your chronic illness? Please share with us below.
URMC Study: Yoga Improves Sleep, Quality of Life for Cancer Survivors. The University of Rochester Medical Center Newsroom May 21, 2010.
Gavalas, Elaine. The Yoga Minibook for Stress Relief. Simon & Schuster Fireside. elainegavalas.com