Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
February 16, 2021
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Tai chi may improve sleep among older adults

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Both conventional exercise and tai chi were associated with modest sleep improvements, which were sustained for 24 months, according to results of a randomized clinical trial published in JAMA Network Open.

“To validate the use of tai chi as an alternative approach for managing insomnia, this study aimed to (1) examine the effectiveness of tai chi on improving objective sleep in older adults with insomnia relative to a passive control using actigraphy and (2) compare the effectiveness of tai chi with conventional exercise,” Parco M. Siu, PhD, of the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues wrote. “With both subjective and objective data, the effects of tai chi on sleep improvement can be more comprehensively analyzed, which will shed light on its future establishment as a nonpharmacological approach for insomnia management.”

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The investigators conducted the trial across 4 years at a single research unit in Hong Kong, where they randomly assigned 105 participants to 12 weeks of tai chi, 105 to 12 weeks of exercise and 110 to a no intervention control group. Participants were aged 60 years or older and had chronic insomnia. Actigraphy sleep assessment measures served as primary outcomes; remission of insomnia, insomnia treatment response, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index score, Insomnia Severity Index score and self-reported sleep using a 7-day sleep diary served as secondary outcomes. The researchers performed assessments at baseline, postintervention and 24 months after the intervention.

Results showed improved sleep efficiency and reductions of wake time after sleep onset and number of awakenings as assessed by actigraphy at postintervention among the exercise and tai chi groups vs. the control group. However, the researchers reported no significant differences between the exercise and tai chi groups. Both intervention groups had maintained the actigraphy-assessed beneficial effects at follow-up.

“The concomitant improvements in objective and subjective sleep, as well as the larger insomnia remission and treatment response rates, support the notion that tai chi can be an alternative approach for insomnia management for older adults with insomnia,” Siu and colleagues wrote.