Inflammation truly is the root of disease. And some common factors that most of us experience regularly — stress and difficulty sleeping — are major contributors to unruly inflammation throughout the body.
Take insomnia for example. It’s associated with increased risk for depression, various medical conditions and mortality.
But a new study published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry reports that a simple, fun and prescription-free treatment for insomnia reduces inflammation levels in older adults over 55 years of age.
“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,” said Dr. Michael Irwin, who conducted this work along with his colleagues at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the University of California Los Angeles.
For this study, the researchers recruited 123 older adults with insomnia who were randomized to receive one of 3 types of classes: cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, the movement meditation tai chi, or a sleep seminar (the control condition).
Tai chi, a lifestyle intervention that targets stress that can lead to insomnia, was also found to reduce inflammation, and did so by reducing the expression of inflammation at the cellular level and by reversing activation of inflammatory signaling pathways. The reduction of cellular inflammation was also maintained during the 16-month follow-up.
Those participants assigned to the sleep seminar classes showed no significant changes in inflammatory markers, as expected.
“This study suggests that there are behavioral approaches that can improve sleep, reduce stress, and thereby improve health,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. “It is a reminder, once again, that there is no health without mental health.”