Tai Chi improves sleep and reduces anxiety and stress

Background: According to statistics, about one-fifth of the world’s elderly people suffer from sleep disorders, and the problem of sleep disorders in the elderly is extremely serious, and this problem is one of the important causes of chronic diseases such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, and coronary heart disease in the elderly. The positive effect of Tai Chi exercise therapy on sleep problems has been confirmed, but at present, the effect of the specific duration of Tai Chi exercise on the improvement of elderly people with moderate to severe sleep disorders varies.

Objective: META analysis was used to investigate and find that long-term Tai Chi exercise therapy has the best effect on improving sleep in elderly patients with moderate to severe sleep disorders. Methods: META analysis was performed using Revman 5.3 after searching Web of science, Pubmed, Scopus, The Cochroae Library, OVID, CBM, CNKI, VIP, and other databases, and then filtering and extracting.

Results: A total of seven papers were included. Meta-analysis showed that tai chi exercise was more effective in improving sleep problems in elderly patients with sleep disorders compared to the control group, and the difference was significant. This was demonstrated by a decrease in the global Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) score [SMD = -0.66, 95 % CI (-0.91, -0.41), P < 0.00001], as well as its subdomains of subjective sleep quality [SMD = -0.79, 95 % CI (-1.06, -0.52), P < 0.00001], sleep latency [SMD = -0.80, 95 % CI (-1.21, -0.40), P < 0.00001], sleep duration [SMD = -0.38, 95 % CI (-0.72, -0.04), P = 0.03], habitual sleep efficiency [SMD = -0.58, 95 % CI (-0.84, -0.31), P < 0.0001], sleep disturbance [SMD = -0.51, 95 % CI (-0.78, -0.25), P = 0.00001] and daytime dysfunction [SMD = -0.33, 95 % CI (-0.59, -0.07), P = 0.01]. Improvement was also observed in the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) and Insomnia Severity Index Scale (ISI). The results showed that the optimal duration and frequency of Tai Chi exercise therapy for improving moderately severe elderly patients with sleep disorders was long-term.

Conclusion: This study systematically assessed the efficacy of Tai Chi exercise therapy for elderly patients with moderate-to-severe sleep disorders. Through a meta-analysis of relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs), it aims to determine the effectiveness of Tai Chi exercise in improving sleep quality in elderly patients with moderate-to-severe sleep disorders, as well as to compare its effects with those of traditional treatments; to analyze the safety of Tai Chi exercise for this patient population and assess its feasibility as a non-pharmacological therapy; and to fill the research gaps and provide more comprehensive and systematic evidence support.

This study provides a practical approach to reducing the risk of medication side effects in older adults with sleep disorders and offers a potentially effective non-pharmacological treatment option, especially for those who are unable or unwilling to use medication. Tai chi exercise may not only improve sleep, but also improve coordination, muscle strength, balance, and reduce stress and anxiety in older adults. It also helps older adults socialize and enhances their social connections and emotional support.

This study suggests that community centers or activity centers for the elderly can organize tai chi classes to promote the participation of older adults, and can be used as a scientific exercise rehabilitation tool in clinical treatment, incorporating tai chi practice into daily life, such as tai chi practice at a fixed time every day or every week, which not only helps to improve the sleep disorders of older adults, but also improves their overall quality of life.

Reference: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38293413/

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About Attilio

Doctor of Chinese medicine, acupuncture expert and author of My Fertility Guide and My Pregnancy Guide.

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