Changes in the depression symptom scores and self-rated sleep of institutionalized elderly persons following Yoga and Ayurvedic interventions

N.K. Manjunath & Shirley Telles
Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation, Bangalore

Insomnia and depression are two significant health problems associated with advancing age in the elderly. Sleep disorders have been shown to be related to depressive symptoms, poor physical activity, medication and bad self-rated health. The conventional treatment for geriatric depression and insomnia were found to cause undesirable side effects in older persons, such as states of confusion, psychomotor performance deficit, nocturnal falls, dysphoric mood, impaired intellectual functioning and day time sleepiness. Hence, there has been increasing use and satisfaction with herbal/homeopathic remedies, acupuncture and relaxation techniques for the elderly with self perceived psychological symptomatology and particularly with depressive disorders. With the increasing interest in complimentary treatments, randomized trial was conducted to evaluate the effects of two allied ancient Indian disciplines (Yoga, Ayurveda) in comparison with a control group, on depression symptom scores and self rated sleep in a geriatric population. 69 persons aged over 60 years, selected based on set criteria out of 120 inmates of a residential home for the aged, were stratified by age and gender and randomly allocated to three groups, i.e., Yoga, Ayurveda and Control. All three groups were evaluated for geriatric depression symptom scores and self-assessment of sleep at baseline, and after three and six months. The Yoga program (75 minutes per day, 6 days a week) included physical postures, relaxation techniques, voluntarily regulated breathing and lectures on philosophical aspects of yoga. The Ayurveda group were given a herbal tonic (Rasayana Kalpa) twice a day, 7 days per week. This preparation has a constituent (i.e., Withania Somnifera) which has been proven in animal models to have a mood stabilizing effect. The control group carried on with their routine activities. Data was analyzed using the statistical package (SPSS version 10.0). The Yoga group (one way ANOVA and Tukey test) showed a significant reduction in the depression symptom scores at both three and six months (from a baseline of 10.6 to 8.1 and 6.7, respectively). Also, there was a significant reduction in the time taken to fall asleep (average 10.47 minutes), an increase in the total number of hours slept (average 1.1 hours) and in the feeling of being rested in the morning (15.4%) after six months. The other groups showed no change. Hence an integrated approach of yoga including the mental and philosophical aspects in addition to the physical was an especially useful addition to the program of institutionalized older persons, as it reduced depressive symptoms and improved certain aspects of sleep.

This paper was presented at the
National Conference on
Yoga and Indian Approaches to Psychology

Pondicherry, India, September 29 - October 1, 2002