Yoga Could Help Cancer Survivors Sleep Better

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Yoga and cognitive behavioral therapy should be recommended for cancer survivors who are struggling with sleep.

Survivors of cancer who participate in yoga or cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia have improved sleep efficiency and duration, compared to those who do not or who receive a behavioral placebo, according to phase 3 findings presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting.

Patients with cancer can experience sleeping problems throughout treatment, that often carry over into survivorship. This can lead to the patient being unable to complete a daily task and having a lower quality of life, highlighting the need for better sleep solutions.

Researchers conducted a study consisting of 740 survivors (93% female) and compared the effects that yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and behavioral placebo had on sleep efficiency, duration, waking after sleep onset and sleep latency (defined as the time it takes an individual to fall asleep).

Patients had either a 75-minute yoga session twice a week for four weeks (150 patients), 90-minute cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia session once a week for eight weeks (135 patients) or behavioral placebo, which were survivorship health education sessions for 75 minutes twice a week for four weeks.

There were significant differences in sleep efficiency and duration but not latency between groups.

Sleep efficiency was maintained in the yoga and cognitive behavioral therapy, but was significantly decreased in the behavioral placebo group.

Sleep duration was maintained for those taking yoga but was significantly decreased in the cognitive behavioral therapy and behavioral placebo groups, with a mean change of losing 20.3 and 26.6 minutes, for the cognitive behavioral therapy and placebo groups, respectively.

There were no significant changes seen within the group regarding wake after onset sleeping, however it was lower in the cognitive behavioral therapy group, compared to the yoga and the behavioral placebo groups, post-intervention.

“Oncologists should offer both (yoga for cancer survivors) yoga and (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia) as treatment options for cancer survivors experiencing sleep impairment,” the authors wrote on the poster presentation.

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