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A More Consistent Daytime Routine Leads To Better Sleep At Night

April 2, 2010

According to a study published in the April 1 issue of the journal Sleep, older adults living in a retirement community who followed a consistent daily routine experienced an easier time falling asleep, better sleep quality and less insomnia. The researchers found that it was more important to maintain a regular pattern of self-care activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and eating than instrumental activities such as shopping, public transportation use and medical appointments, although consistency in timing, frequency and duration of daily activities extended to activities such as watching TV or reading a book. Lead author Anna Zisberg, RN, MA, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Haifa in Mt. Carmel, Israel, said that the findings highlight the importance of developing lifestyle regularity as a means for maintaining good sleep quality. "We predicted that there would be a relationship between routine activity patterns and sleep quality, since theoretically sleep patterns and other everyday life activities are related and potentially synchronized," said Zisberg. "However, given the widely accepted view that light is the major synchronizer of the human sleep-wake cycle, we were surprised that our findings were so robust." The study, conducted in the northern part of Israel, involved 96 Russian-speaking older adults in two retirement communities where each apartment was fully equipped as an independent functional unit including a kitchenette. Participants had a mean age of about 75 years, with a range from 58 to 89 years; 72 percent were female, 82 percent lived alone and 75 percent reported fair or good health. Sleep medication was used less than once a week by 5 percent of the sample, from once to twice a week by 7 percent of participants and three times or more per week by 23 percent of the sample. The authors noted that changes in the circadian system are considered a natural part of aging and are implicated as an underlying factor of reduced sleep quality in the elderly. Routine lifestyle rhythms may serve as a protective factor contributing to the maintenance of high-quality sleep. However, more research is needed to examine the maintenance of daily routines in broader populations with varying cultural backgrounds and living arrangements. Future longitudinal studies may assess whether lifestyle regularity constitutes a cause or a consequence of quality sleep patterns.