Protective Effect of Aerobic Physical Activity on Sleep Behavior in Breast Cancer Survivors

Integr Cancer Ther. 2017 Mar;16(1):21-31. doi: 10.1177/1534735416651719. Epub 2016 Jun 1.


Hypotheses: Sleep disorders are associated with an increased risk of cancer, including breast cancer (BC). Physical activity (PA) can produce beneficial effects on sleep.

Study design: We designed a randomized controlled trial to test the effect of 3 months of physical activity on sleep and circadian rhythm activity level evaluated by actigraphy.

Methods: 40 BC women, aged 35-70 years, were randomized into an intervention (IG) and a control group (CG). IG performed a 3 month of aerobic exercise. At baseline and after 3 months, the following parameters were evaluated both for IG and CG: anthropometric and body composition measurements, energy expenditure and motion level; sleep parameters (Actual Sleep Time-AST, Actual Wake Time-AWT, Sleep Efficiency-SE, Sleep Latency-SL, Mean Activity Score-MAS, Movement and Fragmentation Index-MFI and Immobility Time-IT) and activity level circadian rhythm using the Actigraph Actiwatch.

Results: The CG showed a deterioration of sleep, whereas the IG showed a stable pattern. In the CG the SE, AST and IT decreased and the AWT, SL, MAS and MFI increased. In the IG, the SE, IT, AWT, SL, and MAS showed no changes and AST and MFI showed a less pronounced change in the IG than in the CG. The rhythmometric analysis revealed a significant circadian rhythm in two groups. After 3 months of PA, IG showed reduced fat mass %, while CG had improved weight and BMI.

Conclusion: Physical activity may be beneficial against sleep disruption. Indeed, PA prevented sleep worsening in IG. PA can represent an integrative intervention therapy able to modify sleep behaviour.

Keywords: actigraphy; anthropometry; breast cancer; physical activity; sleep; sleep quality.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy / methods
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Cancer Survivors
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology