Researchers have found that regular traditional yoga practice benefits elderly people with insomnia and can help improve their mental and emotional health. Medical practitioner and RMIT University Professor Dr Marc Cohen will present the findings at the Australian Yoga Therapy conference in Melbourne.
The study found practising yoga for at least 25 minutes daily for 12 weeks improved participants’ sleep and enhanced psychological and emotional wellbeing. Professor Cohen, who supervised the research and is Foundation Professor of Complementary Medicine at RMIT, said the findings showed yoga was an effective, affordable and safe exercise for older people with insomnia.
The 12-week study formed the basis for PhD graduate Jonathan Halpern’s research at RMIT, in which he investigated whether yoga could improve sleep and the quality of life of 74 people aged 60 to 87. Professor Cohen said insomnia was a debilitating problem and one of the most frequent health complaints in the elderly.
“We wanted to explore this because insomnia impairs daily function, reduces quality of life and is a risk factor for other health issues for older people,” he said. “Drugs used to help treat this condition are only recommended for short-term use and have limited effectiveness.”
Professor Cohen said the participants in the study, who were based in Israel, undertook two weekly classes of physical and meditative yoga as well as daily home practice of meditative yoga over 12 weeks. The study was undertaken in collaboration with the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Israel and the Israel Yoga Teachers Association, with a grant from the Australia Israel Scientific Exchange Foundation.
The clinical trial was supervised by Dr Clement Cahan, Director of the sleep laboratory at the medical centre and former president of the Israel Sleep Research Association.