Sleep is important for each and every one of us. During rest, the body gets a chance to repair and heal. What more if you have breast cancer, a disease that affects 1 in 8 American women?1 Beating this beast of a disease is a major, monumental milestone. But in order to prevent recurrence and maintain optimal health, getting enough shut-eye is imperative.
Unfortunately, about 30 percent of breast cancer survivors suffer from insomnia.2 Stress is a common factor, but some medications can also mess with sleep.3 Top it off with facing the unknown, and restless nights are sure to come.
The “gold standard” of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. But what if something else could work just as well, or even better? According to a 2017 experiment, Tai Chi is the one to take home that title.
How Does Tai Chi Help Breast Cancer Survivors?
The study was carried out by researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and was published in 2017 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Participants included 90 breast cancer survivors, ranging from ages 42 to 83. Each one had insomnia at least three times a week, depression, and daytime drowsiness. The survivors were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 treatments: weekly cognitive behavioral therapy or weekly Tai Chi classes. Both lasted for 3 months, and each group had 45 participants.
At 2 and 3 months, everyone was evaluated. Follow-up assessments took place at the 6 and 15-month marks. The goal? To determine how well insomnia improved at 15 months. Measurements of sleep quality, total sleep time, depression, fatigue, and daytime drowsiness were also obtained.
At 15 months, 46.7 percent of the Tai Chi survivors saw improvement. Meanwhile, 43.7 percent in the cognitive behavioral therapy group could say the same. Tai Chi wasn’t as efficient as therapy – it was better!4
Benefits Of Tai Chi For Breast Cancer And Sleep
While there’s nothing wrong with cognitive behavioral therapy, it isn’t for everyone. You might also just want to take your wellness routine to the next level. Whatever the case, practicing Tai Chi will have amazing benefits for your sleeping habits.
1. Reduces Pain
Breast cancer treatment is no walk in the park, especially if you also have diseases like arthritis or osteoporosis. Falling asleep can feel like a serious task! To handle chronic pain, do it naturally with Tai Chi. It’ll limit the need for prescription painkillers and make it easier to snooze.
For instance, The Journal of Pain found that weekly Tai Chi does wonders for neck pain. After 12 weeks, sufferers took 20 percent less painkillers than usual.5
2. Fights Stress
Nothing disrupts sleep quite like the ruthless nature of stress. Luckily, Tai Chi has the power to enhance the neuroendocrine response to stress. It may even combat high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and protect immunity in the process.6
3. Improves Fatigue
Daytime sleepiness can severely impact the quality of life. For many, it simply causes a cascade of anxious and stressful feelings. Practicing Tai Chi, however, has been shown to have benefits for cancer-related fatigue.7 Come nighttime, falling asleep will come easy.
In a nutshell, Tai Chi is associated with a better quality of life.8 This is a game changer for sleep and beyond! By practicing Tai Chi just once a week, you can live up your life like the strong survivor you are.
|↑1||DeSantis, Carol E., Jiemin Ma, Ann Goding Sauer, Lisa A. Newman, and Ahmedin Jemal. “Breast cancer statistics, 2017, racial disparity in mortality by state.” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians (2017).|
|↑2, ↑4||Irwin, Michael R., Richard Olmstead, Carmen Carrillo, Nina Sadeghi, Perry Nicassio, Patricia A. Ganz, and Julienne E. Bower. “Tai Chi Chih Compared With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Treatment of Insomnia in Survivors of Breast Cancer: A Randomized, Partially Blinded, Noninferiority Trial.” Journal of Clinical Oncology (2017): JCO-2016.|
|↑3||Insomnia (Trouble Sleeping). BreastCancer.org.|
|↑5||Lauche, Romy, Christoph Stumpe, Johannes Fehr, Holger Cramer, Ying Wu Cheng, Peter M. Wayne, Thomas Rampp, Jost Langhorst, and Gustav Dobos. “The Effects of Tai Chi and Neck Exercises in the Treatment of Chronic Nonspecific Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The Journal of Pain 17, no. 9 (2016): 1013-1027.|
|↑6||Robins, Jo Lynne W., Nancy L. McCain, R. K. Elswick, Jeanne M. Walter, D. Patricia Gray, and Inez Tuck. “Psychoneuroimmunology-based stress management during adjuvant chemotherapy for early breast cancer.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).|
|↑7||Xiang, Yu, Liming Lu, Xiankun Chen, and Zehuai Wen. “Does Tai Chi relieve fatigue? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” PloS one 12, no. 4 (2017): e0174872.|
|↑8||Larkey, Linda K., Denise J. Roe, Lisa Smith, and Denise Millstine. “Exploratory outcome assessment of Qigong/Tai Chi Easy on breast cancer survivors.” Complementary therapies in medicine 29 (2016): 196-203.|