Tai Chi Can Help Relieve Insomnia in Breast Cancer Survivors

For breast cancer survivors, tai chi is as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy and more effective than medication in treating insomnia and reducing the risk for sleep loss-related health issues, including depression, fatigue, and a weakened immune system, according to a study published online May 10 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

To investigate the effects of tai chi on sleep, the researchers asked 90 breast cancer survivors with insomnia and symptoms of depression and daytime sleepiness to undergo weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions or weekly classes in a Westernized form of tai chi for a period of three months. The participants, who ranged in age from 42 to 83, reported on their insomnia and other symptoms at regular intervals over the course of 12 months.

The findings showed that nearly half of the participants in both groups had significant improvement in their symptoms 15 months later.

"Breast cancer survivors often don't just come to physicians with insomnia. They have insomnia, fatigue, and depression," study leader Michael Irwin, M.D., of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in Los Angeles, said in a UCLA news release. "And this intervention, tai chi, impacted all those outcomes in a similar way, with benefits that were as robust as the gold standard treatment for insomnia [cognitive behavioral therapy]."



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