Yoga Can Improve Sleep in Cancer Patients

Sleep disturbance is common among cancer patients. Medical data states that about 50% of cancer patients suffer from insomnia, and this is due to the side effects of chemotherapy.

Thankfully, there is an activity that cancer patients can do in order to sleep better at night. A new study that was presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology suggests that yoga can be a truly beneficial activity for cancer patients.

In the study, 227 women who were taking chemotherapy for breast cancer were divided into 3 groups. The first group did Tibetan yoga sessions, which focused on controlled breathing, meditation, and postures. The second group did simple stretching, and the last group didn’t do anything apart from receive conventional care. The yoga and stretching sessions lasted around 90 minutes, and the women were instructed to repeat what they had learned every day at home.

To ensure that the experiment was accurate, all of the test participants wore tracking devices that monitored sleep. The women were then re-tested a week after the 12-week study period, and again after 3, 6, and 12 months later.

The study concluded that cancer patients who practiced yoga at home at least twice a week reported better sleep quality compared to the other two groups.

The women who did yoga at home also enjoyed some long-term benefits from the activity. Compared to the other two groups, the women who practiced yoga said that they had fewer instances of feeling weak throughout the day. During the follow up months, the women also reported better sleep quality.

The new research is backed by a previous study, which also mentions the importance of exercises such as yoga in decreasing the side effects of cancer treatment to patients. The experiment conducted by the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics studied how men with prostate cancer would react to yoga. Fifty men participated in the study. Twenty five of the test participants did two, 75-minute yoga classes, and the other half did not do any physical activity. Before their cancer treatment started, both test groups reported relatively low levels of fatigue. However, as the treatment progressed, the men who didn’t do yoga experienced more fatigue than those who practiced it.

Cancer patients who want to try out yoga should perform the exercise several hours before bedtime. Jim White, the spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, said in an interview with Leesa that no exercise should be done 3 hours before bedtime. This is because the body’s temperature can stay elevated for 3-6 hours after exercise and keep people wide awake.

Although the exact reasons are still unknown, there are many theories as to why exercise help people sleep. One such theory is that exercise triggers an increase in body heat, and the post-exercise drop in the temperature may promote drowsiness. Exercise can also help reduce insomnia due to its effects on the body’s circadian rhythm, which shifts its timing depending on the time that the exercise was performed.

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