Nav: Home

Tai chi relieves insomnia in breast cancer survivors

May 10, 2017

If you've ever had insomnia, you know worrying about sleep makes it even harder to fall asleep. For the 30 percent of breast cancer survivors who have insomnia, sleepless nights can lead to depression, fatigue and a heightened risk of disease.

Now, new UCLA research shows that tai chi, a form of slow-moving meditation, is just as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been considered the "gold standard" treatment, with both showing enduring benefits over one year.

The results, published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that tai chi promotes robust improvements in sleep health in breast cancer survivors with insomnia, with additional benefits of improving depressive symptoms and fatigue. Furthermore, both tai chi and cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a form of talk therapy, showed similar rates of clinically significant improvements in symptoms or remission of insomnia.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine considers cognitive behavioral therapy the treatment of choice for insomnia. This approach involves identifying and changing negative thoughts and behaviors that are affecting the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

While cognitive behavioral therapy treats insomnia, it's too expensive for some people and there is a shortage of trained professionals in the field, said Dr. Michael Irwin, the study's lead author and 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 limitations, we need community-based interventions like tai chi," Irwin said. Free or low-cost tai chi classes are often offered at libraries, community centers or outdoors in parks. Do-it-yourselfers can find instructional videos on YouTube and smartphone apps.

In previous research, Irwin and colleagues found that tai chi, which relaxes the body and slows breathing, reduced inflammation in breast cancer survivors with the potential to lower risk for disease including cancer recurrence.

To test tai chi's effect on insomnia, researchers recruited 90 breast cancer survivors, who had trouble sleeping three or more times per week and who also reported feeling depressed and fatigue during the daytime. The participants ranged in age from 42 to 83 and were randomly assigned to weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions or weekly tai chi instruction for three months. The tai chi group learned a Westernized form of the practice called tai chi chih.

The researchers evaluated the participants at intervals for the next 12 months to determine if they were having insomnia symptoms, as well as symptoms of fatigue and depression, and determined whether they showed improvement.

At 15 months, nearly 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 robust, clinically significant improvement in their insomnia symptoms.

"Breast cancer survivors often don't just come to physicians with insomnia. They have insomnia, fatigue and depression," said Irwin, who is also a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. "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."

Many of the tai chi participants continued to practice on their own after the study concluded, reflecting the motivation he's observed among breast cancer survivor, Irwin said. "They often are seeking health-promoting activities because they recognize that the mindfulness approach, or health-based lifestyle interventions, may actually protect them," he said.

-end-

The study's other authors include Carmen Carrillo, Perry Nicassio, Richard Olmstead and Nina Sadeghi, all of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology; Dr. Patricia Ganz of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and JCCC; and Julienne Bower professor of psychology and a member of the JCCC.

The study was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (R01 CA 119159), the National Institutes of Health (R01-AG034588, R01-AG026364, R01 CA160245-01, CA195637-01) and the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA's Semel Institute.

University of California - Los Angeles

Related Depression Articles:

Tackling depression by changing the way you think
A thought is a thought. It does not reflect reality.
How depression can muddle thinking
Depression is associated with sadness, fatigue and a lack of motivation.
Neuroimaging categorizes 4 depression subtypes
Patients with depression can be categorized into four unique subtypes defined by distinct patterns of abnormal connectivity in the brain, according to new research from Weill Cornell Medicine.
Studies suggest inflammatory cytokines are associated with depression and psychosis, and that anti-cytokine treatment can reduce depression symptoms
Studies presented at this year's International Early Psychosis Association meeting in Milan, Italy, (Oct.
Is depression in parents, grandparents linked to grandchildren's depression?
Having both parents and grandparents with major depressive disorder was associated with higher risk of MDD for grandchildren, which could help identify those who may benefit from early intervention, according to a study published online by JAMA Psychiatry.
Postpartum depression least severe form of depression in mothers
Postpartum depression -- a household term since actress Brooke Shields went public in 2005 about her struggle with it -- is indeed serious.
Tropical Depression 1E dissipates
Tropical Depression 1E or TD1E didn't get far from the time it was born to the time it weakened to a remnant low pressure area along the southwestern coast of Mexico.
Diagnosing depression before it starts
MIT researchers have found that brain scans may identify children who are vulnerable to depression, before symptoms appear.
Men actually recommend getting help for depression
Participants in a national survey read a scenario describing someone who had depressed symptoms.
Depression too often reduced to a checklist of symptoms
How can you tell if someone is depressed? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) -- the 'bible' of psychiatry -- diagnoses depression when patients tick off a certain number of symptoms on the DSM checklist.

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Oliver Sipple
One morning, Oliver Sipple went out for a walk. A couple hours later, to his own surprise, he saved the life of the President of the United States. But in the days that followed, Sipple's split-second act of heroism turned into a rationale for making his personal life into political opportunity. What happens next makes us wonder what a moment, or a movement, or a whole society can demand of one person. And how much is too much?
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Future Consequences
From data collection to gene editing to AI, what we once considered science fiction is now becoming reality. This hour, TED speakers explore the future consequences of our present actions. Guests include designer Anab Jain, futurist Juan Enriquez, biologist Paul Knoepfler, and neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris.