How to Sleep Better in 2017

Happy New Year from all of us at the CHOICE Study! New Year’s resolutions to improve health are always popular in January, so in this blog post, we will remind ourselves of ways to improve sleep. Restful sleep is supportive of all our body’s systems, especially during and after treatment for cancer. Below you will find a brief review of evidence-based integrative therapies for insomnia in cancer patients and survivors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) -  Considered the first line treatment for insomnia, CBT-I is very effective in reducing time needed to fall asleep and improving sleep quality. Delivered by a qualified mental health professional, CBT-I involves several weekly visits, during which the patient is instructed in sleep hygiene and beliefs about sleep are examined. For more information, please scroll down to the May 2016 blog post, where CBT-I is explained in more detail.

Acupuncture - Acupuncture is quickly becoming a popular and well-researched therapy for a number of cancer-related symptoms, including insomnia. Based on ancient Chinese medicine traditions, acupuncture involves a qualified practitioner inserting very fine needles into the skin along energy pathways called meridians. The needles are gently manipulated to improve energy, or qi, flow throughout the body. Acupuncture outperforms drug therapy for sleep disturbances with hot flashes, as detailed in the September 2015 blog post on the publishing of one of Drs. Mao and Garland’s studies.(1)

Mindfulness - Therapies Therapies like yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and mindfulness meditation are proving valuable as tools to improve quality of life in cancer survivors. As well as improving sleep, mindfulness practices can also boost mood and immune system functioning. In a study by CHOICE’s Dr. Sheila Garland, mindfulness was found to help reduce unhelpful beliefs about sleep.(2) For more information on these therapies, please see the November 2016 blog post.

Supplements - Considering the lack of regulation of vitamins, herbs and dietary supplements in the US, it is important to glean information from reliable sources. One such source is the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s mobile smartphone application entitled, “About Herbs”. Information can also be found on the Society for Integrative Oncology website’s “Herb of the Month”. (3) For a more thorough look at finding trustworthy information about supplements, please see the January 2016 blog post.

Improving sleep also improves the accompanying symptoms of depression, anxiety, pain and fatigue. Caring for your health through better sleep may be the best resolution you make this year. We wish you good sleep and health for 2017!

References

1. Garland, et al. Comparative effectiveness of electro-acupuncture versus gabapentin for sleep disturbances in breast cancer survivors with hot flashes: a randomized trial. Menopause. 2016 Nov 21. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27875389

2. Garland, et al. The Comparative Impact of Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) on Sleep and Mindfulness in Cancer Patients. Explore (NY). 2015 Nov-Dec;11(6):445-54 Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26386748

3. Society for Integrative Oncology website, Herb of the Month, available online at https://integrativeonc.org/news/sio-news