New research published online on August 12, 2013, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology
suggests that yoga may help cancer survivors sleep more and sleep better after treatment.
The study enrolled 410 cancer survivors who suffered from moderate to more severe sleep problems 2 to 24 months after they had been treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Almost all patients were white women and 75% had had breast cancer. Participants were randomly assigned to receive standard care or standard care in addition to a 4-week yoga intervention. The yoga intervention used the Yoga for Cancer Survivors program, in which participants attended two, 75-minute sessions per week. Sleep quality was assessed both before and after the intervention using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index questionnaire and actigraphy sensors worn at night.
Patients in both groups improved their sleep patterns, but the yoga group improved significantly more than the control group. Overall, patients who did yoga improved their general sleep quality by 2 points on average, while control-group patients improved on an average of 1.1 points. Those who did yoga also saw greater improvements in daytime sleepiness and the amount of time spent sleeping compared with those who did not do yoga.
The results also indicated that participants in the yoga group reduced their use of sleep aids by 21% per week, while participants in the control group increased their use of sleep aids by 5% each week.