Tai Chi and Qigong – A Good Night's Sleep is a Movement Away

Thursday, May 23, 2019
Can’t Sleep? You aren’t alone.
Research by the Sleep Health Foundation, “Asleep on the Job: Counting the cost of poor sleep”, 2017 highlights that poor sleep is affecting 39% of Australian adults that are regularly struggling with their sleep. The 2017 study found that the number of sleep problems among Australians are 5-10% higher than when the Foundation published its first survey on sleep health in 2010. Sleep disorders contribute to diseases and injuries such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, workplace injuries and motor accidents.
 
Tai Chi and Qigong Could be THE Answer
As ‘mindfulness meditation’ activities such as Tai Chi and Qigong have become more mainstream, so they have become more extensively studied. These studies are adding to the growing evidence of multiple psychological and physical benefits associated with the practices. Numerous research studies suggest that ‘mindfulness-based interventions’ help decrease anxiety, depression, stress and pain, while improving general health, mental health, quality of life and SLEEP.
 
These findings come as no surprise to Dr. Herbert Benson, Director Emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. “Mindfulness meditation is just one of a smorgasbord of techniques that evoke the relaxation response,” says Dr. Benson.
The ‘relaxation response’, a term he coined in the 1970s, is a deep physiological shift in the body that is the opposite of the stress response. The relaxation response can help ease many stress-related ailments, including depression, pain, and high blood pressure. For many people, sleep disorders are closely tied to stress, says Dr. Benson.
 
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. It helps you break the train of your everyday thoughts to evoke the relaxation response. For anyone who has practiced Tai Chi and Qigong, you will know only too well that you can’t think of anything else while you are practising.
 
So, if you haven’t tried Tai Chi or Qigong, and you are suffering from many a sleepless night, why not give it a go. For those of you who are practitioners, regular practice is the key. Practising once-a-week in class is not going to solve the problem. In an ideal world, we would practice for an hour every morning, but in a 21st Century First World Society that simply isn’t feasible for most people. So, consider allocating just 10 minutes to your practice before you go to bed at night and you’ll be surprised at the difference it will make. Get everything ready for your night’s rest and make your practice the last thing you do before you lie down. Once in bed, if you haven’t gone to sleep straight away, go through one of your forms in your mind... picture yourself moving through a routine; feel how your body moves, feel how your mind is totally immersed in the movements; feel the intrusions of everyday life melt away as you are completely immersed in the routine you are thinking about...
 
... SLEEP may be a Tai Chi movement away.
 
Studies include:
"Improving sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep complaints: a randomized controlled trial of Tai Chi"  - Irwin MR, Olmstead R, Motivala SJ. Published in PubMed.Gov - NCBI (National Centre for Biotechnology) 2008
Design: A randomized controlled trial with a Volunteer sample of 112 healthy older adults, aged 59 to 86 years. 16 weeks of teaching followed by assessment 9 weeks later. The main outcome measure was ‘sleep quality’, as assessed by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Random allocation to Tai Chi or health education for 25 weeks.
Results: Among adults with moderate sleep complaints, as defined by PSQI global score of 5 or greater, subjects in the Tai Chi group with poor sleep quality showed significant improvements in sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep duration and sleep disturbance.
Conclusion: Tai Chi can be considered a useful non- pharmacologic approach to improve sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep complaints.