Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by a chronic difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep which has a relatively high prevalence and a significant socioeconomic cost. There is good evidence that cognitive and/or physiological arousal, associated with sustained sympathetic activation, is one of the underlying causes of insomnia.Relaxation treatments such as progressive relaxation and meditation which address the cognitive and somatic arousal associated with insomnia have been found to be effective. Yoga is a comprehensive discipline which includes physical exercises, postures, breathing techniques, and meditation, for the purpose of improving health and well being. Research studies have documented the effectiveness of yoga in reducing sympathetic activation and cognitive and somatic arousal and in the treatment of specific medical disorders.
Cancer survivors often feel fatigued and have trouble sleeping for months or even years after their last chemotherapy or radiation session. Now, a new study shows that yoga can help them sleep better, feel more energized, and cut back on sleeping medications.
The study included 410 cancer survivors who had completed treatment in the previous two years and had been experiencing sleep problems for at least two months. All but 16 of the patients were women, and 75 percent were breast cancer survivors. In addition to the standard post-treatment care that everyone received, half of the study participants attended 75-minute yoga sessions twice a week for a month.
The sessions, which were based on two forms of low-intensity yoga known as Hatha yoga and restorative yoga, included breathing exercises, meditation, and 18 different poses. At the beginning of the study, just under 85 percent of the participants in both the yoga and control groups were experiencing sleep problems.
By the end, 31 percent of the patients who’d done yoga were sleeping soundly, compared with just 16 percent of the control group. The yoga participants were also using about 20 percent less sleep medication, on average, while the people in the control group actually upped their intake of sleep drugs by 5 percent. Additionally, the yoga participants had substantially lower levels of fatigue and daytime sleepiness compared with the control group.