Tai Chi Improves Sleep & Reduces Stress in College Student

This study, published in the October 2011 issue of Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, is performed by Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.

Objectives: This study sought to determine whether participants in Tai Chi classes would report increases in mindfulness greater than that of a comparison group, and whether changes in mindfulness were associated with improvements in mood, perceived stress, self-regulatory self-efficacy, and sleep quality.

Design: The study design was quasi-experimental with repeated measures. Settings/location: The study was set in a midsized public university.

Subjects: Students aged 18-48 years old enrolled in 15-week courses of either Tai Chi (76 of them) or special recreation (control group,132 of students).

Intervention: Chen-style Tai Chi classes were offered 2 times per week for 50 minutes each time. Outcome measures: Self-report of mindfulness (Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire), mood (Four Dimensional Mood Scale), perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale), self-regulatory self-efficacy (Self-regulatory Self-Efficacy Scale), and sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index).

Results: Increases in total mindfulness scores occurred only in the Tai Chi group, not in the control group. All well-being variables showed a pattern of improvement in the Tai Chi group, with either stability or decline over time in the control group. Increases in mindfulness were significantly correlated with improvements on all well-being measures and with sleep quality.

Conclusions: Relative to a recreation control group, Tai Chi classes for college students are associated with increased mindfulness and improved sleep quality, mood, and perceived stress, but not self-regulatory self-efficacy. Randomized control design studies are needed to substantiate the causal role of Tai Chi exercise in the development of mindfulness and associated improvements in well-being.

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