From Our 2010 Archives

Daily Routines Help Seniors Sleep Better

Study: Maintaining Daily Routines Improves Sleep Quality

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

April 1, 2010 -- Maintaining regular daily routines reduces insomnia and improves sleep quality in older people who live in retirement communities, a new study suggests.

Study researcher Ana Zisberg, PhD, RN, of the University of Haifa in Israel, says performing basic activities such as eating, dressing, and bathing at the same time every day was found to improve sleep quality.

Performing less frequent activities, such as shopping or visiting a doctor, on a regular basis improved sleep quality to a lesser extent.

So to get better sleep, she suggests, it's important to keep a daily routine.

"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," Zisberg says in a news release. "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."

Routines Help Sleep Quality

The study, conducted between August 2007 and September 2008, involved 96 Russian-speaking older adults living in two retirement communities, where each apartment was fully equipped as an independent unit, including a kitchenette that allowed them to set their own meal times.

They ranged in age from 58 to 89, and 72% were women, 82% of whom lived alone. Seventy-five percent reported being in fair or good health, and some participants used sleep aid medication.

What participants did on a daily basis was determined by a trained interviewer who interviewed them three times at two-week intervals. Eighty-nine of the 96 participants finished the interviews and were included in the final analysis.

The researchers found that people who followed routines:

  • Took less time to fall asleep
  • Had higher sleep efficiency (the amount of time in bed that you are asleep)
  • Had better sleep quality

The researchers say that changes in the body's biological clock are a natural part of aging and are likely culprits in the reduced sleep quality of older people, but developing daily routines may counteract this.

The findings are published in the April issue of the journal Sleep.

SOURCES: Zisberg, A. Sleep, April 2010; vol 33: pp 509-514.

News release, American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

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