Yoga can help cancer survivors sleep better, boost energy

2010-05-23 13:38

Cancer survivors might want to try yoga to get a better night’s

sleep and boost their energy levels, according to a US study.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New

York randomly assigned more than 400 cancer survivors, most of whom had been

treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer, into two groups.

One group did gentle Hatha yoga and restorative yoga – including

special postures and breathing and mindfulness exercises – twice a week for a

month. The other followed standard practice.

Those who did yoga were able to cut back on sleeping pills and

slept better, as measured by a 22% increase in sleep quality on a commonly used

scale. That was nearly twice the improvement of survivors who didn’t do the


Yoga also cut fatigue by close to half and led to a small increase

in quality of life.

That is good news for cancer patients, said researcher Karen

Mustian, who led the study. It will be presented at the American Society of

Clinical Oncology yearly meeting in early June.

“We really don’t have any good remedies for fatigue for cancer

survivors,” said Mustian. “Although patients may take drugs to help them sleep

such medications have side effects and aren’t usually long-lasting.

How yoga achieves its relaxing effects isn’t completely


“It may be promoting social bonding,” Mustian said, adding that

preliminary studies have suggested it could also lower stress hormones.

For cancer survivors seeking help from yoga, Mustian recommended

looking for instructors who have experience with people dealing with illness.

She also stressed that the results might not apply to all forms of yoga.

Dr Douglas Blayney, president of the American Society of Clinical

Oncology, said physicians and oncologists were often uncomfortable advising

patients who wanted to use therapies that were complementary to standard cancer


“A physician can say with some confidence, ‘yes, this kind of yoga

programme may be useful’,” Blayney, who was not involved in the research,


“Here we have a studied intervention; one that has been subjected

to clinical trials and, lo and behold, it seems to be beneficial.”


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