Young adults who went to work and ate dinner around
the same time every day typically slept better and woke up fewer
times during the night. They also fell asleep more quickly at
Yet the exact time people performed daily activities — say, eating
dinner at 6 p.m. versus 8 p.m. — had little bearing on how well they
"For the majority of sleep outcomes, we found that completing
activities at a regular time better predicted sleep outcomes than
the actual time of day that activities were completed," Natalie
Dautovich, a psychologist at the University of Alabama in
Tuscaloosa, said. She led the study, which was published in the
Journals of Gerontology: Series B.
"For example, people reported better sleep quality and fewer
awakenings at night when they were consistent in the time they first
went outside," Dautovich told Reuters Health in an email.
On the other hand, for older adults, inconsistent daily schedules
were sometimes linked with better sleep, the researchers found.
For instance, older people whose dinnertime varied tended to sleep
longer at night. And those who started home activities or began work
at different times each day fell asleep more quickly.
The study included 50 adults between the ages of 18 and 30 and
another 50 between 60 and 95. Participants kept a diary of when they
performed regular activities and how well they slept at night for
Instead of opening the door to new recommendations or sleep
treatments, the authors said the study best serves to create
questions for future research.
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Those questions include whether older adults who have more variation
in their daily schedules are already healthier and more socially
active — or whether it's the variety in one's everyday schedule that
provides the activity and stimulation that help ensure good sleep,
according to Dautovich.
"We know that good sleep at night is dependent in part on our drive
to sleep, which is based on how active and alert we are during the
day," she said.
For that reason, being out and about during the day remains one of
the best ways to maximize the chances of a solid night of shuteye.
"Greater activity and levels of alertness during the day increase
our need to sleep at night," Dautovich said.
Gerontology: Series B, online Dec. 10, 2013.
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