Regular tai chi practice may improve the quality of sleep and, consequently, the quality of life for older adults. Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep is a persistent issue for many older people. Medications can help, but they may cause unpleasant or harmful side effects, such as daytime confusion, falls, fractures or adverse interactions with other prescriptions. Studies show that consistent exercise helps older people sleep, but many elderly persons cannot participate in rigorous activity. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), wanted to determine whether tai chi practice, a gentler form of movement, might provide sleep benefits.

Investigators recruited 112 healthy adults, aged 59–86, to participate in either tai chi training or health education classes for 25 weeks. Subjects rated their sleep quality, duration and disturbances before and after training. Data analysis showed that the tai chi group had more improvements in sleep quality and a remission in impairments like daytime drowsiness and lack of concentration.

Researchers from the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology conducted this study. To learn more about the center’s work, go to www.cousinspni.org.