Insomnia is a common problem for older adults and is often caused by health problems. It may also be a side effect of medication or may be caused by anxiety. More than 50% of older adult patients have reported having problems falling asleep, staying asleep and feeling rested/refreshed the next morning. Apart from leaving you irritable, “poor sleep can have detrimental consequences for many of the aspects of vitality and resilience required for successful aging.” People who practice Tai Chi report a significant improvement in the quality and quantity of their sleep.
People who don’t sleep well tend to get sicker much more often and there is even a correlation between earlier death and sleep deprivation. Additionally, older adults who suffer from sleep disturbances are more likely to be placed in a nursing home than those who do not. Furthermore, older adults with poor sleep patterns are at a higher risk for falls.
Several people who suffer from insomnia use medication to get some sleep. This may include either prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids. Unfortunately, some people even turn to alcohol to help them sleep. However, medication is not often a great option. Many older adults are already taking several medications and supplements and may not want to add yet another pill to their routines. Additionally, many sleep aids have side effects such as a carryover drowsy feeling the next morning, memory disruptions and an increased risk of falling, especially in the nighttime. Sleep medications may impair concentration, attention and motor/cognitive skills, which puts a patient at risk for injury if he or she needs to get up and use the bathroom at night. Also, several sleep aids carry a risk of dependency.
That’s why you should consider Tai Chi for sleep if you suffer from insomnia. Tai Chi helps alleviate stress and anxiety, which are common causes of insomnia. Tai Chi also helps relax your muscles as well as your mind and may reduce pain, which is a common cause of insomnia. In fact, a 2008 UCLA study on Tai Chi and sleep showed that the Tai Chi participants, “…took the least time to fall asleep, had fewer awakenings, and felt better rested…Overall their sleep was better…The amount of sleep across the night was longer, and they slept a greater amount of time.”
If you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep because you cannot fall asleep or stay asleep and feel rested, it is important to try and figure out why. Your insomnia may be a side effect of a medication or it may be a symptom of an underlying illness. More often than not, it may be due to pain, stress, anxiety or depression. After consulting with a physician, consider trying Tai Chi for a good night’s sleep.