Short course of Tibetan yoga improved sleep in cancer patients

HOUSTON - The first study to look at the use of Tibetan yoga by cancer patients found the combination of movement and meditation led to a significant sleep benefit, say researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

In the small study, reported in the April 15 online issue of the journal Cancer, lymphoma patients who practiced Tibetan yoga for seven weeks went to sleep faster, slept longer, had better overall sleep quality, and used less sleep medication, compared with a "control" group of patients with lymphoma who did not use yoga, say the investigators.

There were, however, no differences between the groups in other "quality of life" measures, including anxiety, depression and fatigue. The most likely reason for this is the study's brief time frame, says the lead author of the study, Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Departments of Behavioral Science and Palliative Care & Rehabilitation Medicine, and the Director of the Integrative Medicine Program at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"From the Tibetan tradition, practitioners tell us that these techniques need to be practiced for at least six months before benefits are seen," says Cohen. "Although the shortness of this study was a limitation, it is remarkable that after seven weekly classes we were able to see significant improvements in overall sleep quality across a three month follow-up time frame."

Cohen and his colleagues, who include investigators from Rice University in Houston, are continuing their study of Tibetan yoga as a potential stress reducer in cancer patients. One ongoing study in breast cancer patients is measuring levels of stress hormones and immune function in patients practicing Tibetan yoga.

"The objective of using yoga in patients who have been, or are being, treated for cancer is not necessarily to increase length of life, but to improve the quality of life," says Cohen. "In cancer patients, fatigue is not necessarily dire

Contact: Stephanie Dedeaux
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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