Sleep problems are very common in low income areas but is often under-recognized and untreated. The reasons are often related to sleep health behaviors, stress, and adverse environmental conditions. But, a pilot study claims that it may have an answer: sleep education and yoga.
“We were encouraged to see large improvements in self-reported sleep quality and daytime functioning after the sleep hygiene and yoga intervention despite the short intervention period in this pilot study” said Christine Spadola, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at both Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. “We found that many of our participants were not initially aware of some of the fundamental behaviors that comprise sleep hygiene, or healthy sleep practices, but were pleased to see their openness to making changes to improve sleep and their enthusiasm for participating in yoga.”
Sleep hygiene refers to behavioral interventions that have the intention of promoting good sleep opportunities. Examples include making sure you have the right bedding, maintaining a good sleep routine and schedule, and avoiding substances that interfere with sleep.
By partnering at all levels with community members, the research team was able to develop a sleep health and yoga intervention that offered content relevant to the participants and was convenient for participants to attend. Group sessions were held in community rooms within two large low-income housing units in Boston, providing easy access for residents.
“Some participants reported that they were able to deeply relax for the first time as a result of the yoga classes,” said Spadola. “Considering that stress underlies poor sleep as well as many chronic health conditions, we were very pleased with this result.”
The pilot study was conducted of a combined sleep health and yoga intervention among racially/ethnically diverse adults residing in low-income housing communities, who reported sleeping less than 6 hours a night (n=23). The six-week intervention consisted sequentially of: one group sleep health education session delivered by a sleep expert (1-hour), one telephone coaching session (15 minutes), and four weekly 1-hour yoga classes.
According to the study authors, this sleep intervention can be brought directly to residential communities of under-served populations and holds promise for high uptake and sustainability.
“Our work suggests that a community informed intervention that addresses socio-contextual barriers to participation and adherence and partners with residential community leaders and institutions can significantly impact health behaviors, such as improved sleep,” said Spadola.