Low-intensity yoga improves global sleep quality
Sleep disturbances occur in about 10% to 15% of the general population and are often associated with situational stress, illness, aging, and drug treatment. It is estimated that one-third to one-half of people with cancer experience sleep disturbance, according to the National Cancer Institute
Lifestyle interventions such as exercise are recommended in combination with medications and cognitive behavioral therapies for treating impaired sleep. Preliminary evidence suggests that yoga, a mind and body intervention may improve sleep among cancer survivors.
In a randomized controlled trial researchers set out to determine the effectiveness of a standardized yoga intervention compared with standard care for improving global sleep quality among post-treatment cancer survivors.
Dr. Karen M. Mustian, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, James P Wilmot Cancer Center University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology Behavioral Medicine Unit of the James P Wilmot Cancer Center and the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and colleagues recruited 410 cancer survivors suffering from moderate or severe sleep disturbances between two and 24 months after surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy, Among the participants 96% were women with 75% having been treated for breast cancer and the average age of participants was 54 years.
For the trial participants were randomly assigned to standard care or standard care plus the 4-week yoga intervention. The yoga intervention used the Yoga for Cancer Survivors (YOCAS) program consisting of pranayama (breathing exercises), 16 Gentle Hatha and Restorative yoga asanas (postures), and meditation. Participants attended the yoga intervention twice weekly 75 minute sessions for a span of four weeks. The sessions were held at community-based sites which included yoga centers, community centers and community oncology centers.
Participants in both groups demonstrated average baseline global sleep quality scores of 9.0 on the PSQI, which indicated clinically recognized sleep disturbance.
Yoga participants demonstrated greater improvements in global sleep quality and, secondarily, subjective sleep quality, daytime dysfunction, wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency, and medication use at post-intervention (all P ≤ .05) compared with standard care participants.
The team also reported that 90%of the yoga intervention group that had completed the trail said that they found the yoga intervention useful for sleep quality and 63% would recommend the intervention to other cancer survivors.
In their conclusion the researchers write “Yoga, specifically the YOCAS program, is a useful treatment for improving sleep quality and reducing sleep medication use among cancer survivors.”
Dr. Mustian emphasizes that not all styles of yoga maybe suitable for cancer survivors. She adds that highly aerobic forms of yoga and some of hybrid versions of the ancient practice including “spin yoga” and “hot yoga” maybe inappropriate.
In closing Dr. Mustian adds “we really can't speak to the safety of these more vigorous yoga practices.” "The message to patients is to look for a well-qualified instructor who is teaching gentle Hatha yoga or restorative yoga.”
This study appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
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