(NaturalNews) Elderly adults who practice tai chi sleep better than those who do not, according to a study conducted by researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles, and published in the journal Sleep.
Researchers asked 112 healthy adults between the ages of 59 and 86 to fill out a questionnaire based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which rates the duration and quality of sleep, as well as sleep disturbances, over the course of one month. Participants were then assigned either to practice 20 simple tai chi moves, or to take part in health education classes to learn healthier sleep, diet and stress management habits. After 25 weeks, the participants took the sleep survey again
People in the tai chi group showed significant improvement on measures of sleep quality, duration and disturbances in comparison with the control group.
The findings have the potential to improve life for vast numbers of people, lead author Michael Irwin said.
"Poor sleeping constitutes one of the most common difficulties facing older adults," said Irwin, noting that 58 percent of people aged 59 or older self-report sleeping difficulty on at least a few nights per week.
Yet in 85 percent of these cases, the problem goes untreated. Those who do receive treatment are usually given sedative drugs, which can have dangerous side effects.
"It's not uncommon for older adults to experience daytime confusion, drowsiness, falls and fractures, and adverse interactions with other medications they may be taking," Irwin said.
Tai chi, in contrast, improves health in general. And unlike other forms of exercise with similar health benefits, tai chi is composed of gentle, flowing movements that are not difficult or dangerous for the elderly.
"It's a form of exercise virtually every elderly person can do, and this study provides more across-the-board evidence of its health benefits," Irwin said.