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Tai Chi and Sleep in Older Adults

Can Tai Chi Help You Sleep?

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Updated July 21, 2008

Tai chi can help people sleep when it is practiced regularly. Tai chi is an ancient martial art that is widely practiced (in slow motion) by older adults in China. In tai chi, a person makes slow, meditative movements that are linked to breathing. In other studies, tai chi has been shown to improve diabetes management, the immune system, balance and more. Now it looks as if tai chi could improve sleep as well.

Why Worry About Sleep?

Older adults have big problems when it comes to sleep. Due to health conditions (i.e., high blood pressure), medications and just plain bad habits, many older adult are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Add in sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, and there are real sleep deficiencies among older adults. If tai chi can help improve sleep, it could increase the quality of life of many older persons.

Tai Chi Improves Sleep

One hundred and eighteen men and women, ages 60 to 92, were randomly put into a tai chi group and a low impact exercise group. Each group met for 60 minutes, three times a week for 24 weeks. Based on surveys about sleep, the tai chi participants showed significant improvement over the low impact exercise group. The tai chi group fell asleep 18 minutes quicker each night and slept 48 minutes more than the exercise group (the groups were the same in sleep time/duration at the beginning of the study). These improvements are similar to the effect of sleep medications.

Tai Chi: Perfect for Older Adults

Tai chi is a fantastic exercise for older adults, because it brings numerous benefits with minimal risk of injury. The combination of focusing on movement and breath is great for balance and relaxation. The learning of new poses gives your mind a fantastic workout (better than crosswords or Sudoku). Get started with these tai chi resources:

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