Thanks to my tai chi instructor, Lisa O’Shea, (lisachiATqigongrochesterDOTcom), for passing this one on:
Insomnia is an increasing problem in our society among people of all ages. Because of age-related changes in sleep, many older people complain of insomnia. And many of them, unfortunately, are prescribed sleeping pills that may do more harm than good.
There are many non-drug approaches to insomnia. First and foremost is to educate people about the normal changes in sleep patterns and needs that occur with age. Second is to educate people in the various aspects of good “sleep hygiene”. Is there anything that works better than that?
Apparently, tai chi does. UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine published a study,
which looked at the effects of tai chi on sleep in older adults.
Over 100 community-dwelling adults with moderate sleep complaints, ranging from age 59 to 86, were randomized into two groups. One group was given extensive instruction on good sleep hygiene and the other was enrolled in a tai chi program – 40 minutes of tai chi instruction or health education, three times a week, for 16 weeks. Standardized sleep assessments were done at the beginning, and 9 weeks after the programs ended.
Guess who did better? The tai chi group had a 63% rate of significant responders, compared with 32% in the education group. There was improvement in several sleep subsets and no increase in use of sleeping pills. The results are comparable to other behavioral therapies.
It is theorized that both the meditative, breath-focused nature of the activity and the aerobic component contribute to the benefit. Chinese medicine would suggest additional mechanisms, regarding balance of yin/yang, organ vitality and chi flow. Either way, it works!