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Sleep during travel balances individual sleep needs

Abstract

Travel is expected to have a deleterious effect on sleep, but an epidemiological-scale understanding of sleep changes associated with travel has been limited by a lack of large-scale data. Our global dataset of ~20,000 individuals and 3.17 million nights (~218,000 travel nights), while focused mainly on short, non-time-zone-crossing trips, reveals that travel has a balancing effect on sleep. Underslept individuals typically sleep more during travel than when at home, while individuals who average more than 7.5 hours of sleep at home typically sleep less when travelling. The difference in travel sleep quantity depends linearly on home sleep quantity and decreases as median sleep duration increases. On average, travel wake time advances to later hours on weekdays but earlier hours on weekends. Our study emphasizes the potential for consumer-grade wearable device data to explore how environment and behaviour affect sleep.

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Fig. 1: Sleep activity patterns and the relative change in sleep duration for travel nights.
Fig. 2: Disproportionate effect of travel on individuals with high social jet lag and the connection between weekends and weekdays.
Fig. 3: Change in sleep onset and offset on travel nights.

Data availability

The raw data are not publicly available to preserve individuals’ privacy (according to the privacy policy for the wearable devices). Aggregated and anonymized data supporting the key findings in the paper are available from Figshare (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.17207231); researchers interested in single-night data resolution may contact the corresponding authors regarding full data access.

Code availability

The code used to generate the results of this paper is available for download on GitHub (https://github.com/siggasvala/Travel-and-sleep).

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Acknowledgements

S.L. thanks the DISTRACT project (European Research Council) and the Nation-Scale Social Networks Project (Villum Foundation) for support of this work. J.B. acknowledges support from Google Open Source under the Open-Source Complex Ecosystems and Networks (OCEAN) project. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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S.S.J., S.L. and J.B. designed the research. S.S.J. preprocessed the data, performed the data analysis and created the figures. S.S.J., S.L. and J.B. analysed the results and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Sune Lehmann.

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Jonasdottir, S.S., Bagrow, J. & Lehmann, S. Sleep during travel balances individual sleep needs. Nat Hum Behav 6, 691–699 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01291-0

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