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Tai chi chih helps elderly sleep better

health-and-fitness Updated: Jun 21, 2008 15:09 IST

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Practicing tai chi chih, a meditative form of exercise to which practitioners attribute physical and spiritual health benefits, induces sound sleep among the elderly, a new study shows.

The study comprised 112 healthy adults aged between 59 and 86 who were randomly assigned to one of two groups for a 25-week period.

The first group practiced 20 simple tai chi chih moves; the other participated in health education classes that included advice on stress management, diet and sleep habits.

At the outset, participants were asked to rate their sleep based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a self-rated questionnaire that assesses sleep quality, duration and disturbances over a one-month period.

The study found that the tai chi chih group showed improved sleep quality and a remission of clinical impairments, such as drowsiness during the day and inability to concentrate, compared with those receiving health education.

The tai chi chih participants showed improvements in their own self-rating of sleep quality, sleep duration and sleep disturbance.

"Poor sleeping constitutes one of the most common difficulties facing older adults," said lead study author Michael Irwin, professor in psychiatry at the UCLA Cousins Centre for Psychoneuroimmunology.

Irwin noted that 58 percent of adults aged 59 and older report having difficulty sleeping at least a few nights each week.

However, sleep problems remain untreated in upto 85 percent of people. And for those who do seek help, the usual remedy is a sedative. But sedatives can cause side effects, he said.

The study will be published in the journal Sleep.