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Sleep Deprived? Blame Your Commute

Our work schedules and commutes shape our daily routines. Whether we drink coffee in the morning, which train we catch, our children’s school schedules, and if we choose to workout, or not, are all part of an intricate system created to help us live our lives successfully, to help us arrive to work early, and hopefully—leave on time.

At Jawbone, we are always curious about what everyday routines can tell us about our health, and what parts of our routines impede and propel progress toward our goals. As the UP® system with Smart Coach becomes more aware of these routines, it’s in a better position to help you build healthier habits that work for your situation.

In a recent study we found that the length of commute directly correlates with how much we work out, sleep, and move.

Since sleep and activity stats vary significantly with gender and age, we studied each gender and age group separately. For the purpose of this post, we decided to narrow the focus and compare commuters to non-commuters using the UP data of men and women between the ages of 25 and 34. However, overall, we did observe similar trends among all of the gender and age groups we studied.

Commuters Sleep Less

Commuters go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, and sleep less on weekdays than non-commuters. As the commute becomes longer, the differences become more pronounced.

During the week, people who commute at least 15 miles go to bed 28 minutes earlier than non-commuters. They wake up 51 minutes earlier, their sleep is 13 minutes shorter, and they spend 10 more minutes awake in bed.

On weekends, sleep deprived commuters catch up on the precious sleep they may have lost during the workweek, sleeping in as long as non-commuters. Although for commuters, workweek routines and habits seem to be hard to break. Even with the promise of extra sleep at hand, commuters go to bed 24 minutes sooner and get up 30 minutes earlier.

Long Distance Commuters Are Less Active

On average, the most active group, are people whose commute is shorter than 5 miles. This might be due to their choice of walking or biking as a mode of transportation.

As the commute grows longer than 5 miles, one loses several hundred steps a day relative to people who commute less, or those who don’t commute at all. If the impact of only a few hundred steps a day may seem minimal to your health today, compute the loss of those steps over the course of a year, or 200 working days. It adds up—with over 100,000 steps lost.

During the week, commuters who travel under 5 miles to and from work take an average of 437 more steps daily than non-commuters. They also take 833 more steps than commuters whose commute is 15 miles or longer.

Unlike with sleep, long distance commuters do not make up their comparative movement deficit on weekends. Commuters who travel under 5 miles beat non-commuters by 422 steps, and 15-miles-or-longer commuters by 890 steps. It is possible that lower level of daily activity becomes a habit, even on the days when the constraint of having to commute is lifted.

When Do Commuters Work Out

Commuting creates constraints on when one can exercise. On weekdays, commuters work out earlier in the morning, and later at night, than non-commuters.

This chart compares the likelihood that 15-miles-or-longer commuters and non-commuters log a workout by hour of day.

Long distance commuters’ days are characterized by three upticks in activity: a smaller one between the hours of 5AM and 7AM (before heading out to work), a slightly higher one at noon (lunchtime workouts), and the tallest spike occurs between 6-7PM (after work workouts). Meanwhile, he most popular hours for non-commuters to work out are 9-10AM and 5-6PM.

Overall, commuters log fewer workouts than non-commuters throughout the day. The only hours when commuters beat non-commuters are 6-7 PM, and between 5-6 AM.

On weekends, however, the workout pattern of commuters is virtually indistinguishable from that of non-commuters. The two groups are much closer in their likelihood to exercise during a particular hour of day, with 9-10AM being the most workout friendly hour overall.

Okay, so if you’re a commuter, what can you do? The good news is that commuters are not doomed to live a significantly unhealthy lifestyle year over year. By adjusting daily routines to increase activity, sleep, and healthy eating habits, anyone (yes, even commuters!) can make a significant change to their overall health. Ultimately, that’s why we built the UP System, and its intelligent guide, Smart Coach. We wanted to deliver personalized tips and well-timed reminders that help you make better choices and get a foot up on your personal health—no matter how challenging your schedule is.

Technical Notes
The stats are computed using anonymized data of a few thousand UP users in the US that could be classified as commuters or non-commuters with sufficient confidence.

UP users were classified into commuters and non-commuters using the location data that the UP app saves when it is open. The data is saved only when the user approves this upon installation, in accordance with Jawbone privacy policy.

About The Author

Eugene Mandel

Eugene is on the Data Science team at Jawbone where he makes data talk. He is also into Improv, CrossFit and cats. Follow him @eugmandel