Age Is Associated With Dampened Circadian Patterns of Rest and Activity: The Study of Muscle, Mobility, and Aging (SOMMA)

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2024 Apr 1;79(4):glae049. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glae049.


Background: The effects of aging on circadian patterns of behavior are insufficiently described. To address this, we characterized age-specific features of rest-activity rhythms (RAR) in community-dwelling older adults both overall, and in relation, to sociodemographic characteristics.

Methods: We examined cross-sectional associations between RAR and age, sex, race, education, multimorbidity burden, financial, work, martial, health, and smoking status using assessments of older adults with wrist-worn free-living actigraphy data (N = 820, age = 76.4 years, 58.2% women) participating in the Study of Muscle, Mobility, and Aging (SOMMA). RAR parameters were determined by mapping an extension to the traditional cosine curve to activity data. Functional principal component analysis determined variables accounting for variance.

Results: Age was associated with several metrics of dampened RAR; women had stronger and more robust RAR versus men (all p < .05). Total activity (56%) and time of activity (20%) accounted for most of the RAR variance. Compared to the latest decile of acrophase, those in the earliest decile had higher average amplitude (p < .001). Compared to the latest decile of acrophase, those in the earliest and midrange categories had more total activity (p = .02). Being in a married-like relationship and a more stable financial situation were associated with stronger rhythms; higher education was associated with less rhythm strength (all p < .05).

Conclusions: Older age was associated with dampened circadian behavior; behaviors were sexually dimorphic. Some sociodemographic characteristics were associated with circadian behavior. We identified a behavioral phenotype characterized by early time of day of peak activity, high rhythmic amplitude, and more total activity.

Keywords: Longevity; Physical activity; Successful aging.

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm* / physiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscles
  • Rest* / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology