Regular routines help make healthy, happy seniors

Early to bed and early to rise not only makes a person wealthy and wise, but healthy, too, especially if you’re over 65.

New research suggests that activities like keeping a regular sleep routine in your older years might lead to better mental health.

A good night’s sleep and regular activity are important to your health, especially as you age, but not all activity nor sleep is created the same, according to University of Pittsburgh researcher, Stephen Smagula.

Smagula and his colleagues analyzed data from 1,800 adults over 65 for a study in which they wore devices to record their movement. They found 30% had no set pattern for their sleep and activity routines.

“If your pattern was disrupted, you were more than twice as likely to have significant depression symptoms,” Smagula explained.

Another 32% got up at the same time but only had mild activity for 13 hours during the day. This group had some symptoms of depression and also scored lower on cognition.

And 38% had what Smagula calls a robust pattern, which means 15 hours of activity each day.

The adults with regular sleep and robust activity patterns were happier and had better cognitive functioning, suggesting routine matters.

Smagula said the first step he suggests for seniors is to get up at the same time every day, no matter how tired you are. He said that most people think about intensity when they think of activity, but the research suggests that the duration of activity matters more, meaning older adults should find ways to stay engaged throughout the day.