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Can acupuncture help cancer patients sleep better?

Last year, Oxana Palesh, PhD, MPH, a Stanford researcher who was at the University of Rochester at the time, published a study showing that the rates of insomnia in cancer patients are nearly three times higher than the rates in the general population. "Insomnia is prevalent, underrecognized, undermanaged, and understudied" among these patients, she and her co-authors concluded.

Now Palesh is partnering with principal investigator David Spiegel, MD, on a study of one potential therapy for cancer-related sleep problems. During the trial, which will involve 64 breast cancer survivors with sleep difficulties, the researchers will explore whether acupuncture can help ease sleep problems and improve fatigue and quality of life for participants.

Both researchers are eager to find something that can aid patients. Spiegel said sleep difficulties can interfere with good survivorship and that a well-rested mind can better manage the "many stressors" of cancer and its aftermath. "I think we pay too little attention to sleep as a restorative state to help people cope with cancer," he recently told me.

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