There’s a new way to get a great night’s sleep. It doesn’t come from a drug…or even a supplement.
So what is it?
It’s an ancient practice developed in the 12th century. If you are guessing yoga…you’re wrong. But it is a system of movements and positions.
Dr. Michael Ray Irwin is a professor at UCLA. He’s Director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. He’s an expert in biophysics, psychiatry, and medicine. And he’s studied many approaches to sleep.
Now Dr. Irwin has just finished a new study on older adults with sleep complaints. And he’s used this ancient practice to improve their sleep quality.
“(The practice) can be considered a useful nonpharmacologic approach to improve sleep quality in older adults,” says Dr. Irwin. “(It) has the potential to ameliorate sleep complaints before insomnia develops.”
Other sleep experts hold the practice in high regard. And they agree with Dr. Irwin.
“Practicing (the) exercises regularly can improve sleep as well as daytime functioning in elderly people with sleep disorders,” says Dr. Maureen Williams.
Dr. Williams is a naturopathic doctor with her own practice in Vermont. Her studies in Guatemala and Honduras have made her a master of herbal medicine.
So what is the practice? Continue reading to see the science behind the ancient art…and how it will have you sleeping like a baby.
Studying an Ancient Art Form
Dr. Irwin gathered 112 people…ages 59 to 86. He split them into two groups. A total of 59 people tried the practice. The other 53 began health education. Each program took a total of two hours each week…and lasted for 25 weeks.
Dr. Irwin assessed everyone’s self-rated sleep quality after 25 weeks. He used the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). It’s a tool that measures sleep in seven different areas. Patients simply fill out the survey…and add the component scores together to get a global PSQI score.
The PSQI is very accurate. A study at the University Hospital of Luebeck in Germany shows it has 98.7 percent sensitivity in identifying insomnia.
Patients practicing the ancient art form showed major improvements in PSQI scores. Their sleep quality, efficiency, and duration all improved.
“(The practice) achieved a rate of treatment response for poor sleep quality that is comparable to levels achieved by treatments of insomnia,” says Dr. Irwin.
And Dr. Irwin’s findings do not stand alone.
Dr. Robert J. Thomas is a professor at Harvard Medical School. He’s also the Sleep Medicine Fellowship Director at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He’s a top expert in his field…and has trained over 25 MDs in the past 11 years.
Dr. Thomas did a sleep study on patients who experienced heart failure. As you can imagine…they had sleep difficulties.
He analyzed the patients for 12 weeks. Ten patients received drugs…along with diet and exercise counseling. The other eight took hour-long classes of the practice…two times a week.
“(The practice) enhance(s) sleep stability in patients with chronic heart failure,” says Dr. Thomas.
The practice increased patients’ stable sleep time…and improved sleep quality.
The Mind Body Connection
That ancient practice is tai chi. For centuries it’s been a daily routine for the Chinese. But it only hit the US in the early 1970s.
Tai chi consists of three major components – movement, meditation, and deep breathing.
To get an inside view of tai chi…we spoke exclusively to Stewart Morales. He’s been a tai chi master for 35 years. He first studied the art in Hong Kong. Morales went on to be a mixed martial arts fighter…who spent his youth battling opponents in Brazil and Thailand. He has never lost a fight. And he still teaches tai chi today in Chicago…but only trains two lucky students per year.
Morales says he sleeps soundly every night…and is convinced that’s because he practices tai chi.
“Tai chi movements elevate endorphins,” Morales told NHD. “The mind captures images during stillness…and you release endorphins with focused breathing.”
The stillness involves meditation and relaxation…where you focus on imagery created from the movements. But how does it work exactly?
Morales says it’s from centrifugal force. It’s part of the buildup and release of endorphins or “energy flow.” And getting your body in sync is the key.
“You move your body in a circle…then you turn and counter that circle,” he says. “So you’re creating centrifugal force while also breathing at the same time.”
It’s the buildup and release of those endorphins that is vital to better sleep, says Morales.
How else can tai chi help you?
It’s not just for fighters. Morales believes it can help older adults brace themselves. They can become more confident navigating everyday life.
“It gets you into a mentality…it gives you energy to stand strong and firm instead of crumpling over,” adds Morales.
How to Get Started
Initial classes can last from 30 minutes to over an hour. Most people practice for 15-20 minutes each morning. Contact your local health club, YMCA, or park district to see if they offer classes. There are also free video demonstrations online.
If you want to learn more about sleep…check out the new issue of Natural Health Dossier. Learn exactly why sleep is your number one ally in the modern world. See how it builds muscle…repairs the body…and stabilizes your immune system.
The issue comes out this week. Learn about the benefits of becoming a paid subscriber.
To your best health,
Managing Editor, NHD “Health Watch”