Research suggests that better sleep and tai chi can work to reduce inflammation and promote health. Inflammation is intended to protect the body after injury or during infection, but at the same time inflammatory responses can also be damaging to the body as well. Inflammation has been found to contribute to heart disease, cancer, stroke and other medical problems.
Stress and sleep disturbances are major contributors to inflammation in the body. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and has been linked with depression, medical comorbidities and mortality.
The research showed that for those over the age of 55, inflammation was reduced with better sleep as well as tai chi, which helped to reduce stress.
Researcher Dr. Michael Irwin said, “Behavioral interventions that target sleep reduce inflammation and represent a third pillar, along with diet and physical activity, to promote health and possibly reduce the risk of age-related morbidities including depression.”
Over 120 insomnia patients either received cognitive behavioral therapy, tai chi or sleep seminars. Treating sleep disturbance with cognitive behavioral therapy was successful in reducing symptoms of insomnia, reducing markers of inflammation and reverse inflammation activation. Benefits were maintained for up to 16 months during the follow-up.
Tai chi was successful in reducing stress and was found to reduce inflammation and reverse inflammation activating pathways. Results were also maintained during the follow-up period.
Those in the sleep seminars did not see significant changes in their condition.
Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, said, “This study suggests that there are behavioral approaches that can improve sleep, reduce stress, and thereby improve health. It is a reminder, once again, that there is no health without mental health.”