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Tibetan yoga practice may reduce sleep disturbances in breast cancer patients undergoing treatment

From News Medical - September 20, 2017

Participating in twice-weekly practice of Tibetan yoga may reduce sleep disturbances and improve sleep quality in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, according to a study from researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The research, published in the journal Cancer, found that women who practiced Tibetan yoga at least two times a week reported less daytime disturbances, better sleep quality and sleep efficiency over time, compared to those practicing less often and to women in an active control group receiving usual care.

Sleep disturbances and fatigue are two of the most frequent and debilitating side effects experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, explained lead author Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine and director of the Integrative Medicine Program. Patients often describe poor sleep quality, insomnia, and excessive drowsiness.

"Previous research has established that yoga effectively reduces sleep disturbances for cancer patients, but have not included active control groups or long-term follow-up," said Cohen. "This study hoped to address previous study limitations."

For the randomized study, 227 women with stage I-III breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center were randomized to one of three groups: a Tibetan yoga program, a simple-stretching program, or a waitlist control group receiving usual care. Participants in the Tibetan yoga program and the stretching program attended four 75-90 minute classes during their chemotherapy treatment.

Participants in the Tibetan yoga program were taught one-on-one by a trained instructor, with each class focusing on controlled breathing, visualization, meditation and postures. Patients were encouraged to practice daily, at home outside of class.

Prior to starting the interventions, participants completed baseline questionnaires and wore an actigraphy watch, which monitors rest and activity cycles, 24 hours a day for seven days to assess sleep quality. Follow-up assessments were conducted one week after the end of intervention and three, six, and 12 months later.

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