According to a new research at UCLA, tai chi, a form of meditation supports strong improvements in sleep health in breast cancer survivors with insomnia, and also improved fatigue and depressive symptoms. Additionally, both tai chi and cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of talk therapy, demonstrated same rates of clinically important improvements in symptoms or remission of insomnia.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered as treatment option for insomnia by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This method involves finding and altering negative thoughts and behaviors that are influencing the ability to sleep and stay asleep.
Though cognitive behavioral therapy treats insomnia, it is highly expensive for some patients and the trained professionals in the field are not adequate, said Dr.Michael Irwin, the lead of the study. Irwin serves as a UCLA professor of psychiatry and director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
“Because of those drawbacks, we require community-based interventions like tai chi,” Irwin mentioned. Free or affordable tai chi classes are frequently offered at community centers, libraries or outdoors in parks. Tai chi instructional videos are available on YouTube and smartphone apps.
In earlier research, Irwin and his colleagues showed that tai chi, which relaxes the body and slows breathing, reduced inflammation in breast cancer survivors likely to reduce risk for disease and cancer recurrence.
To examine tai chi’s impact on insomnia, researchers recruited 90 breast cancer survivors, who reported trouble sleeping three or more times per week and who also had depression and fatigue during the day. The participants were aged between 42 and 83 and were randomly attended weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions or weekly tai chi sessions for three months. A Westernized form of the tai chi practice called tai chi chih was offered to the participants.
The researchers assessed the participants at intervals for the next 12 months to verify if they were having symptoms of insomnia, fatigue and depression, and found out whether they showed improvement.
Impact Of Tai Chi
At 15 months, almost half of the participants in both groups 46.7 percent in the tai chi group; 43.7 percent in the behavioral therapy group continued to show strong, clinically important improvement in their insomnia symptoms.
“Breast cancer survivors usually don’t just come to physicians with insomnia. They have insomnia, fatigue and depression,” noted Irwin, who is also a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “And this intervention, tai chi, improved all those results in a same way, with benefits that were as strong as the gold standard treatment for insomnia.”
Many of the participants in tai chi group keep on practicing on their own after the study concluded, showing the motivation he found among breast cancer survivor, Irwin said. “They often are looking for health-promoting activities as they understand that the health-based lifestyle interventions or mindfulness approach, may really save them,” he clarified.