Alternative Treatment for Insomnia
Avery Hurt - MAMM Magazine

Cancer patients often need treatment for insomnia - the inability to fall asleep at night or to get back to sleep after waking. But common medications for the condition can cause side effects such as drowsiness, fatigue and gastrointestinal problems. They may also be dangerous when combined with certain drugs and/or alcohol. A recent study by researchers at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, however, suggests that cancer patients can get relief from insomnia without the use of drugs.

In the study, 12 cancer patients suffering from chronic insomnia (insomnia lasting more than six months), including eight with breast cancer, took part in a sleep therapy program that involved relaxation training and cognitive strategies, which help reduce sleep-disturbing thought patterns. In addition, study participants were taught sleep hygiene techniques, such as using the bed only for sleeping… not reading, eating, or watching television. Though the study was small, all 12 participants experienced improved sleep quality after eight weeks.

"People with cancer have not often been offered help for their insomnia (other than sleeping medication for short-term use) because professionals are not aware of these techniques," said the study's lead investigator, Judith Davidson, PhD, clinical psychologist and researcher in Queen's University's department of oncology. Dr. Davidson adds that she hopes this study shows health care professionals and patients that non-drug, side effects-free therapies for insomnia can be useful.

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