Tai Chi and Good Sleep Lead to Better Health

By Michael Cole

The inflammatory process in the body is its natural reaction when healing needs to happen, especially if there has been trauma. The problem is that sometimes our bodies become too eager to heal through inflammatory responses, which can have a reverse effect in which it damages the body on multiple levels. Chronic inflammation can contribute to illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and other major medical problems.

Cause of Inflammation

One cause of unnecessary inflammatory response is stress, which also happens to result from a lack of sleep. For people who commonly experience insomnia, their stress levels can be so high that undue inflammation is constantly occurring throughout their bodies. This overload of stress on all of the body's systems has been linked to a wide range of medical problems ranging from the psychological to the physical, from depression to death.

Link to Sleep

Recent research into how inflammation levels can be reduced within the body focused on insomnia and how its management, through both cognitive behavioral therapy and the movement meditation known as tai chi, affected adults 55 and over. It was found that specific interventions that aim to reduce insomnia also reduce inflammation. 

The study was designed around 123 older adults, all of whom complained of insomnia. They were randomly assigned one of three different types of treatment: cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, tai chi movement meditation, or a sleep training seminar. 

New Habits for Health

For those who received cognitive behavioral therapy, it was found that their sleep disturbances were diminished enough to significantly lower levels of inflammation in their bodies. Not only was inflammation reduced, but processes associated with inflammation like the production of C-reactive protein was diminished as well. Furthermore, the pathways that inflammatory molecules travel down to activate inflammation were reversed. A follow-up to the study conducted after 16 months found these benefits to be maintained.

The next class of treatment involved teaching participants the movement meditation tai chi, which was found to lower stress levels and therefore insomnia. With this reduction, inflammation was registered as being lower at the cellular level, along with reversed activation along molecular pathways. This beneficial reduction in inflammation was still apparent at a 16-month follow to the study also. 

For those participants unlucky enough to be assigned to sleep seminar classes, there was no benefit in lowered inflammatory rates.

Researchers concluded that behavioral modifications that reduce stress are the key to better physical health, once again illustrating a link between mind and body.

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Centennial, Colo.

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