Past research has hailed meditation for its effects against pain, anxiety and depression. Now, new research from the University of Montreal in Canada suggests that mindfulness-based meditation may improve mood and sleep quality for teenage cancer patients.

The findings were presented at the American Psychosomatic Meeting in San Francisco, CA.

As well as the physical symptoms of cancer, adolescents with the disease often experience uncertainty and anxiety linked to their disease progression, and have to deal with the anticipation of physical and emotional pain associated with illness and treatment.

With this in mind, the research team wanted to see whether mindfulness-based meditation – a practice that focuses on the present moment and the connection between the mind and the body – could help improve some symptoms associated with cancer in adolescents with the disease.

At the baseline of the study, 13 teenage cancer patients were required to complete a series of questionnaires that asked them about any positive or negative emotions, feelings of anxiety and depression, sleep quality and overall quality of life.

Eight of the patients were then required to carry out a mindfulness-based meditation session once a week for 8 weeks. Each session lasted 90 minutes. The other five patients were placed on a waiting list.

At the end of the 8-week period, all patients were required to complete the same questionnaires once again.

The researchers assessed differences in mood, sleep and quality of life for each patient and gave them scores, before assessing these differences between each group.

Results of the study revealed that the patients who took part in the mindfulness-based meditation sessions had lower depression scores than those who were put on the waiting list.

Furthermore, girls in the mindfulness-based meditation group reported sleeping better than those on the waiting list and developed better mindfulness skills than boys during the sessions.

Commenting on the findings, Catherine Malboeuf-Hurtubise, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Montreal, says:

Our results suggest that mindfulness sessions could be helpful in improving mood and sleep in teenagers with cancer, as previous oncology research suggests with adults.”

However, the investigators point out that the differences seen between each group are not big enough to attribute all benefits to the mindfulness aspect of each session. They explain that improved mood and sleep quality may have stemmed from the social support they received.

“Nonetheless,” adds Malboeuf-Hurtubise, “mindfulness-based interventions for teenagers with cancer appear as a promising option to lighten psychological inconveniences of living with cancer.”

Dr. Robert Schneider, a physician and scientist, recently wrote a feature for Medical News Today on whether meditation really does have benefits for the mind and body.