Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center
A study published in the August 2013 Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that yoga is an effective treatment to improve sleep and can reduce the use of sleep medication among cancer survivors.
Previous studies showed that yoga can curb fatigue and improve sleep among cancer survivors. Based off that previous evidence, this multicenter trial sought to study yoga’s effects on sleep quality, fatigue and quality of life.
The primary goal was to determine if yoga, in addition to standard care, could improve sleep quality among cancer survivors. Not only did they find that yoga improves sleep, they also found that yoga fights off fatigue and improves quality of life.
Gentle Yoga is More Powerful Than It Seems
The clinical trial followed 410 cancer survivors who were facing moderate or greater sleep disruption between two and 24 months following treatment. Approximately 96 percent of participants were female, and 75 percent had had breast cancer. None of the participants had practiced yoga within the previous three months.
Half of the participants received standard care, known as the control group (CG), and half received standard care plus a four-week yoga program. The Yoga for Cancer Survivors (YOCAS) program was used, which includes breathing exercises, 18 gentle hatha and restorative yoga poses, and meditation. Participants in the yoga program attended two 75-minute yoga classes each week.
The Shocking Results
Industry standard tests for measuring sleep quality, fatigue and quality of life were conducted before and after the four weeks. Participants who completed the yoga program reported:
- Improved sleep quality (22 percent vs. 12 percent in the control group)
- Reduced incidence of clinically impaired sleep (31 percent vs. 16 percent in CG)
- Less daytime sleepiness (29 percent vs. 5 percent in CG)
- Reduction in sleep medication use (21 percent decrease vs. 5 percent increase in CG)
Participants in the control group actually increased their use of sleep medication by 5 percent, while the yoga group reduced their use by 21 percent. The yoga group also scored better on tests for fatigue and quality of life.
The study demonstrates that cancer survivors who practice yoga even for a few weeks, particularly the Yoga for Cancer Survivors program, could experience less fatigue and improvements in sleep and quality of life. The authors of the study noted that yoga has the potential to reduce the use of sleep medication among cancer survivors and curb daytime sleepiness. Given the results, malignant mesothelioma cancer survivors can consider a gentle yoga practice to address the sleep-disturbing effects of cancer and its treatment.
Author bio: Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of natural and holistic medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor and earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Rollins College in Florida.