Elderly tired of spending restless nights should learn Ancient Chinese martial arts tai chi chih for a good night's sleep, suggests a new study.
More than half of all older adults complain about having difficulties sleeping, however, researchers from University of California, Los Angeles have found that practicing tai chi chih, the Westernized version of a 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art can promotes sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep complaints.
During the study, the team looked at 112 healthy adults between 59-86 years and 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 beginning of the study, 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 time interval.
They 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 Dr. Michael Irwin, the Norman Cousins Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the UCLA Cousins Centre for Psychoneuroimmunology.
Irwin noted that 58 percent of adults age 59 and older report having difficulty sleeping at least a few nights each week. However, sleep problems remain untreated in up to 85 percent of people. And for those who do seek help, the usual remedy is a sedative.
But sedatives can cause side effects, according to Irwin.
"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," he said.
Keeping in mind the physical limitations of the elderly, rigorous exercise might not be an option.
Tai chi chih's gentle, slow movements can be an attractive exercise option for the elderly population.
"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," said Irwin.
The study will be published in the journal Sleep and is currently available in the journal's online edition.