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Effect of qigong for sleep disturbance-related symptom clusters in cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Sleep Medicine. 85:108-122. 2021
Cheung D.S.T., Takemura N., Smith R., Yeung W.F., Xu X., Ng A.Y.M., Lee S.F., Lin C.C.*


To examine the effects of qigong interventions on sleep disturbance-related symptom clusters for cancer patients and to explore the possible mediating role of fatigue and depression in affecting sleep.

In this systematic review and meta-analysis, a systematic search was conducted through October 2020 by searching multiple English and Chinese databases. Inclusion was limited to randomized controlled trials that measured the effect of qigong on sleep and fatigue/depressive symptoms in cancer patients. Eleven studies involving 907 cancer patients were included in the systematic review, whereas the meta-analysis included ten studies with 851 cancer patients.

The most commonly investigated form of qigong was Taichi, and the intervention length ranged from 10 days to 6 months. All studies employed self-reported measurements. Overall, qigong significantly improved sleep (SMD = -1.28, 95% CI: -2.01, -0.55) and fatigue (SMD = -0.89, 95% CI: -1.59, -0.19) in cancer patients post-intervention, but not depressive symptoms (SMD = -0.69, 95% CI: -1.81, 0.42). Notably, the benefits on sleep and fatigue became non-significant after 3 months. Qigong's effect on sleep was significantly mediated by its effect on fatigue (β = 1.27, SE = 0.24, p = 0.002), but not depressive symptoms (β = 0.53, SE = 0.26, p = 0.106).

Qigong can be recommended for improving sleep disturbance-fatigue symptom clusters in the cancer population, while qigong's benefit on sleep is likely based on its effect on reducing fatigue. Future qigong studies should adopt more rigorous design and employ strategies to maintain longevity of intervention benefits.

Key Words: Depression; Fatigue; Qigong; Sleep; Symptom cluster

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(*Correspondence Author)