Yoga May Help Cancer Survivors Sleep Better

A new study says yoga is the key to a good night’s rest after treatment.

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that yoga helps cancer survivors sleep better. Photograph via Shutterstock.

It’s like clockwork: At the end of every single yoga class I attend, as I lie in savasana, I start dreaming.

Somehow, even if it’s just for five to ten minutes, I’m able to sleep like a baby. And I’m not alone. At a recent Sunday night class, a fellow student said she “savasana’d so hard” she fell asleep, as well.

The jury is still out on whether yoga actually helps the general population sleep better, but a new study suggests it helps at least one group catch some Zs: cancer survivors.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, reported that cancer survivors who practiced low-intensity yoga twice a week for 75 minutes reported better sleep quality. Even more, they cut their use of sleep medications by 21 percent, according to MedPage Today

In the study, researchers noted that 30 to 90 percent of cancer survivors have trouble sleeping post-treatment. Of the 410 survivors who took part in the study, most of them women, those who attended a monthlong yoga program demonstrated improvements in overall sleep quality and experienced reduced feelings of fatigue. On the other hand, those who did not do yoga said they had to increase their use of sleep medications by 5 percent each week.

The survivors took part in the Yoga for Cancer Survivors program, which consists of breathing exercises, restorative poses, and meditation. Researchers determined that the YOCAS program in particular was an effective way for cancer survivors to get a better night’s rest.

Even better news for Washingtonians: Various studios and centers offer yoga classes designed specifically for cancer patients and survivors, including but not limited to the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts on U Street, Hope Connections for Cancer in Bethesda, Life With Cancer in Fairfax, Flow Yoga Center in Logan Circle, and Circle Yoga in Friendship Heights.