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Keyboard Activity as a Proxy for Rest-Activity Patterns


Rest-activity patterns are important aspects of healthy sleep and may be disturbed in conditions like circadian rhythm disorders, insomnia, insufficient sleep syndrome, and neurological disorders. Long-term monitoring of rest-activity patterns is typically performed with diaries or actigraphy.

Here, we propose an unobtrusive method to obtain rest-activity patterns using smartphone keyboard activity. The present study investigated whether this proposed method reliably estimates rest and activity timing compared to daily self-reports within healthy participants. First-year students (n = 51) used a custom smartphone keyboard to passively and objectively measure smartphone use behaviours and completed the Consensus Sleep Diary for 1 week.

The time of the last keyboard activity before a nightly absence of keystrokes, and the time of the first keyboard activity following this period were used as markers. Results revealed high correlations between these markers and user-reported onset and offset of resting period (r ranged from 0.74 to 0.80). Linear mixed models could estimate onset and offset of resting periods with reasonable accuracy (R2 ranged from 0.60 to 0.66).

This indicates that smartphone keyboard activity can be used to estimate rest-activity patterns. In addition, effects of chronotype and type of day were investigated. Implementing this method in longitudinal studies would allow for long-term monitoring of (disturbances to) rest-activity patterns, without user burden or additional costly devices. It could be particularly interesting to replicate these findings in studies amongst clinical populations with sleep-related problems, or in populations for whom disturbances in rest-activity patterns are secondary complaints, such as neurological disorders.

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