Nervous System Diseases

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Qigong and Taichi may benefit older people with sleep problems

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Sleep disorders are one of the most common difficulties facing older people. Meditative movement interventions (MMIs), a new category of exercise integrating physical activity and meditation (e.g., t’ai chi, yoga, and qigong), may benefit older people with sleep problems. This systematic review synthesized the evidence on the effect of MMIs on older people’s quality of sleep.

PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Scopus, the Cochrane Library, the China Science and Technology Journal Database (CSTJ) and the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) were searched-from 1950 to March 2014-for randomized controlled trials. Articles were screened and selected by two researchers. Data were extracted from the included studies using specified forms. The same researchers independently evaluated the quality of each article. A meta-analysis was conducted to examine the pooled effect of MMI on sleep quality compared with the control groups.

Fourteen of 1049 studies were included, involving 1225 participants. Interventions included t’ai chi, yoga, qigong, and multicomponent MMI and lasted 12-24 weeks. Ten studies had a low risk of bias. The interventions resulted in significantly better sleep quality scores than either active therapy or usual care/wait-list controls (standardized mean difference, -0.70;95% confidence interval, -0.96 to -0.43). Subgroup analyses revealed that the effect of MMI on sleep quality was not influenced by the type or duration of the intervention. However, pooled results of studies with intervention frequency of fewer than 3 times per week did not show a positive effect on sleep quality. Lower-quality studies had larger effect sizes than high-quality studies. No adverse events were reported. Click to learn how Chinese medicine treats Insomnia.

The current review demonstrated that MMI had a moderate effect on improving the quality of sleep for older people with sleep complaints. However, the evidence is inconclusive because of the varying study quality and MMI modalities. This study highlights the need for higher-quality randomized, controlled trials and more sufficient fidelity of intervention implementation to confirm the results. It also highlights the need for comparing the effectiveness of MMI on different subgroups of the elderly population.

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