Daily tai chi, exercise help older adults with insomnia, study finds

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Daily tai chi and exercise help older adults with insomnia sleep more soundly, a study published Monday by JAMA Network Open found.

Adults in their 60s and 70s diagnosed with insomnia who practiced tai chi daily woke up, on average, two fewer times during the night than those who didn't use the ancient Chinese approach, the data showed.


Those who engaged in a daily exercise program woke up an average of three fewer times than people who did not exercise, the researchers said.

"We found that both tai chi and conventional exercise led to improvements in ... sleep efficiency, wake time after sleep onset and number of awakenings," during the night, the researchers wrote.

"The beneficial effects on sleep from both intervention groups remained evident 24 months after experimental intervention," researchers from the University of Hong Kong said.

More than 50% of older adults globally report suffering from sleep disturbances, with up to 40% experiencing insomnia, according to previous research.

"Mind-body" approaches such as tai chi, which mix physical exercise with meditation, have become increasingly popular, with recent studies suggesting that as many as 30% of people in the United States using them.


For this study, the researchers compared improvements in sleep quality among 320 adults age 60 and older who had been diagnosed with insomnia.

Some of the study participants had been suffering from the condition for 10 years or more, the researchers said.

Among the participants, 105 were enrolled in a 12-week conventional exercise training program that consisted of brisk walking and muscle-strengthening exercises.

Another 105 participants attended a 12-week training program for Yang-style tai chi.

Both interventions consisted of three one-hour training sessions a week.

The remaining 110 participants were included in the "control" group and did not engage in a supervised exercise or tai chi program.

Sleep quality for all study participants was measured using a biometric assessment device worn on the wrist.

Participants in the exercise group had an average of 17 fewer minutes of "wake time" following sleep onset per night compared to the control group, while those in the tai chi group had 13 fewer minutes of wake time per night, the data showed.

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