Tai Chi eases insomnia in breast cancer survivors

It’s a well-documented fact that women struggle with insomnia more often than men – for reasons ranging from hormones to depression.

This is especially true if you’ve survived breast cancer.

Tossing and turning at night is a common side effect of breast cancer treatment – but even after you’ve toughed out chemotherapy or radiation, sleep problems can linger. Nearly a third of survivors – 30 per cent – wind up with persistent trouble sleeping.

It’s a raw deal.

But you don’t have to pop a pill that can make you feel dazed the next day just to get enough shuteye – because according to a new study, you can overcome insomnia naturally with an ancient Chinese practice called Tai Chi.

Aside from sleeping pills, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is typically the “gold-standard” treatment for insomnia. But it can be a long, drawn-out process before you notice any results – and the costs can really add up.

In the new study out of UCLA, 90 breast cancer survivors who had trouble sleeping three or more times per week were randomly divided into two groups: Half took weekly Tai Chi classes, while the other half received weekly CBT sessions over a three-month period.

The researchers continued to evaluate the participants for one year after the treatments wrapped up – and by the end of the study , Tai Chi proved just as effective as CBT in reducing insomnia.

In both groups, nearly half of the participants were STILL sleeping better a year after taking tai chi or receiving CBT.

That’s solid evidence that tai chi not only kicks sleeplessness to the curb, but also that its effects are long-lasting.

Not surprisingly, the women who practiced Tai Chi also felt less depressed… and less fatigued.

So, if you’re struggling with insomnia – whether related to breast cancer or not – you might want to give this ancient art a try.

After all, anything that deprives you of any winks can also make you vulnerable to disease.

And if you’ve already had breast cancer, striking an ancient pose – and sleeping better at night – may help keep it from coming back.

Tai Chi began centuries ago as a martial art for self-defence, but it has evolved into a graceful exercise that combines gentle, fluid movements with deep breathing and mindful meditation that can alleviate pain, boost cognitive function, and lower the risk of stroke and heart disease.

You may be able to find free or low-cost Tai Chi classes in your neighbourhood – they’re sometimes offered at libraries, senior centres, parks, and yoga studios. Or look online for Tai Chi instructional videos geared towards beginners.

You might feel silly at first, but I like to file this one under “Why not?”

Just go with the flow… and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Editor
Nutrition & Healing

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Sources:

Tai Chi Can Help Breast Cancer Survivors Sleep, newsmax.com/Health/Health-News/tai-chi-breast-cancer/2017/05/15/id/790136/

Tai Chi Chih Compared With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Treatment of Insomnia in Survivors of Breast Cancer: A Randomized, Partially Blinded, Noninferiority Trial, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28489508

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