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Yoga improves sleep in breast cancer patients

Young woman practicing yoga in yoga class


Chemotherapy provides a chance for breast cancer patients to fight the disease, improving their chances of being disease-free and surviving it.

But the treatment method has many side effects which impact the quality of life. Sleep disturbances and fatigue are one of the most problematic side-effects.

Patients often suffer from insomnia at night and drowsiness in the day.

However, women who reported practising yoga at least twice a week at home in addition to the four instructor-led sessions had better sleep outcomes than the other two groups.

But a study from the University of Texas suggests that breast cancer patients who practice yoga are likely to have better sleep quality over time.

For this study, women with stage I to III breast cancer who were undergoing chemotherapy were randomly split into three groups. One group attended Tibetan yoga session which focusses on controlled breathing, visualisation and meditation – all this was done from a seated position to ensure that participants who found rigorous styles challenging could also participate. Another group participated in simple stretches while the last group received only conventional care.

The yoga and stretching sessions lasted between 75 and 90 minutes and the women were instructed to practice what they learned at Home too.

Before starting their sessions, the women completed a questionnaire and wore a tracker for a week to monitor their sleep. They were retested one week after the 12-week study period and again three, six and 12 months later.

On the whole, the researchers did not find any significant improvements in sleep quality and fatigue levels in the women. Group differences were mainly seen in the yoga group and the stretching group, showing that the stretching group had worse daily sleep disturbances than the yoga group and more minutes being awake then both the other groups – who did not differ from each other except for one short-term improvement seen in the yoga group. The women in this group reported fewer daytime disturbances – like trouble staying awake or lack of enthusiasm to get things done – one week after their final session.

However, women who reported practising yoga at least twice a week at home in addition to the four instructor-led sessions had better sleep outcomes than the other two groups and better sleep outcomes than those in the conventional therapy group at three months and six months follow-up.

This research adds to the ever-growing body of evidence which points to the benefits of mind-body interventions for cancer patients indicating that such interventions should be part of the treatment offered to cancer patients.

Source: Cancer


Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!