Using big data to explore worldwide trends in objective sleep in the transition to adulthood

L. Kuula, M. Gradisar, K. Martinmäki, C. Richardson, D. Bonnar, K. Bartel, C. Lang, L. Leinonen, A. K. Pesonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Development induces changes in sleep, and its duration has been reported to change as a function of aging. Additionally, sleep timing is a marker of pubertal maturation, where during adolescence, the circadian rhythm shifts later. Typically, this is manifested in a later sleep onset in the evening and later awakening in the morning. These changes across development seem to be universal around the world but are unlikely to persist into adulthood. Methods: This study utilized accelerometer data from 17,355 participants aged 16–30 years (56% female) measured by validated Polar wearables over a 14-day period. We compared sleep duration, chronotype (sleep midpoint) and weekend catch-up (ie, social jetlag) sleep across ages and regions over 242,948 nights. Results: The data indicate a decline in sleep duration as well as a dramatic shift in sleep onset times throughout adolescence. This continues well into early adulthood and stabilizes nearer age 30. Differences in sleep duration across ages were significant, and ranged from 7:53 h at age 16 to 7:29 h at age 30 in the sample. Additionally, there was a clear difference between females and males throughout adolescence and young adulthood: girls had longer sleep duration and earlier timed sleep in the current study. Differences in sleep were found between regions across the world, and across European areas. Conclusions: Both sleep duration and sleep timing go through a clear developmental pattern, particularly in early adulthood. Females had an earlier sleep midpoint and obtained more sleep. Regional differences in sleep occurred across the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-76
Number of pages8
JournalSleep Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


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