Tai Chi Comparable to Behavioral Therapy on Some Measures of Insomnia

Lisa Schulmeister, RN, MN, APRN-BC, FAAN

Researchers found that tai chi chih, including guided movement and meditation, may be helpful in reducing insomnia experienced by breast cancer survivors.

Insomnia is a commonly reported symptom among women with breast cancer. Researchers at UCLA in Los Angeles conducted a comparative study evaluating cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) and Tai Chi Chih (TCC), which involves guided movement and meditation, to improve insomnia symptoms.

After a 2-month phase-in period with repeated baseline assessment, participants were randomly assigned to 3 months of CBT-I or TCC and evaluated at months 2, 3 (posttreatment), 6, and 15 (follow-up). The primary outcome was insomnia treatment response measured as an improvement in the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index at 15 months. Secondary outcomes were clinician-assessed remission of insomnia; sleep quality; total sleep time, sleep onset latency, sleep efficiency, and awake after sleep onset, derived from sleep diaries; polysomnography; and symptoms of fatigue, sleepiness, and depression.

Ninety women were randomly assigned, with 45 in each group. At 15 months, 43.7% had a treatment response to CBT-I and 46.7% responded to TCC. Both groups reported improvements in sleep quality, sleep diary measures, and related symptoms, but not polysomnography (sleep studies). The researchers concluded that TCC may be helpful in reducing insomnia experienced by breast cancer survivors. Study findings are available here.