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Tai Chi Improves Sleep Quality and Reduces Disease Risk in Older Adults with Insomnia
March 20, 2015 -
Sleep disturbances have been linked to increased morbidity and mortality, yet it is unknown whether improving sleep quality in older adult patients with insomnia alters biomarkers of diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.

University of California, Los Angeles performed a study to determine the comparative efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Tai Chi, and a sleep seminar control (SS) to reduce multisystem biomarkers of disease risk in older adults with insomnia.

A population-based sample of 109 older adults with chronic and primary insomnia in Los Angeles was used in the study. The participants were randomly assigned to CBT, Tai Chi, or SS for 2-h group sessions weekly over 4 months with a 16-month evaluation (1 year after follow-up).

Multisystem biological risk comprised of 8 biomarkers: high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, triglycerides, hemoglobinA1c, glucose, insulin, C-reactive protein, and fibrinogen. Using clinical laboratory cutoffs defined as abnormal, a multisystem risk score was computed representing a sum of the deviation around the cutoffs across the 8 biomarkers. In addition, high risk grouping was classified if subjects exhibited 4 or more biomarkers in the abnormal laboratory range.

An interaction of time-by-treatment-by-high risk group was found in which both Tai Chi and CBT showed significantly lower risk scores as compared to SS at 16-months. CBT reduced risk of being in the high risk group at 4-months and at 16-months. Tai Chi reduced the risk at 16-months but not at 4 months. Of participants who were classified in the high risk category at baseline, improvements in sleep quality, as defined by a clinical severity threshold, reduced the likelihood of being in the high risk group at 16-months.

In conclusion, participants classified as having high multisystem biological risk at entry and assigned to CBT or Tai Chi show improvements in risk scores after one year follow-up. Given that these clinical biomarkers are associated with cardiovascular, metabolic, and inflammatory disease risk, improving sleep quality has the potential to reduce the risk of chronic disease in older adults with insomnia.

This study is published in the February 2015 issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.


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