Large cognitive fluctuations surrounding sleep in daily living

iScience. 2021 Feb 7;24(3):102159. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.102159. eCollection 2021 Mar 19.


Cognitive output and physical activity levels fluctuate surrounding sleep. The ubiquitous digitization of behavior via smartphones is a promising avenue for addressing how these fluctuations occur in daily living. Here, we logged smartphone touchscreen interactions to proxy cognitive fluctuations and contrasted these to physical activity patterns logged on wrist-worn actigraphy. We found that both cognitive and physical activities were dominated by diurnal (∼24 h) and infra-radian (∼7 days) rhythms. The proxy measures of cognitive performance-tapping speed, unlocking speed, and app locating speed-contained lower-powered diurnal rhythm than physical activity. The difference between cognitive and physical activity was vivid during bedtime as people continued to interact with their smartphones at physical rest. The cognitive performance measures in this period were worse than those in the hour before or after bedtime. We suggest that the rhythms underlying cognitive activity in the real world are distinct from those underlying physical activity, and this discord may be a hallmark of modern human behavior.

Keywords: Behavioral Neuroscience; Biological Sciences; Cognitive Neuroscience; Neuroscience.