The Stack Archive

Study finds sleep deprivation increases Facebook usage

Fri 5 Feb 2016

A recent study of sleep-deprived students at the University of California Irvine showed a direct correlation between chronic fatigue, crankiness and Facebook browsing.

There have been numerous studies on how technology, and specifically social-media browsing affects sleep patterns and habits. For example, in a press release last week researchers from the University of Pittsburgh announced the results of a study of the social media habits of 1788 adults aged 19-32. This study showed that people who check social media most frequently had three times the likelihood of sleep disturbances; and those who spent the most time on social media had twice the risk of serious sleep problems as well.

The study at UC Irvine is different in that it measures the opposite cause and effect: they looked at how sleep duration leads to increased IT usage. Gloria Mark, lead researcher and UC Irvine informatics professor, said that those who are sleep-deprived are more prone to distraction, and “if you’re being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It’s lightweight, it’s easy, and you’re tired.”

The study, which took place in 2014, equipped student’s mobile devices with software to track usage, and incorporated sleep surveys as well as periodic ‘mood checks’ and questions regarding the perceived difficulty of tasks at hand and participant’s level of engagement with their work.

The results showed a direct correlation between chronic fatigue and accumulated sleep debt, increased IT usage, bad moods, and more frequent changing from one app or task to another, which could indicate increased distractability. Survey findings will be presented at a human-computer interaction conference in May.

Combining the results of this study (that lack of sleep causes increased Facebook usage) with previous studies showing that Facebook usage causes lack of sleep suggests a negative spiral. A person is sleep deprived and easily distracted, so they choose to check in to Facebook more frequently. But increased Facebook usage actually worsens the sleep deprivation problem, and several studies have shown that the blue light associated with mobile devices decreases melatonin production in people even when their eyes are closed. Experts advise turning off all devices at least 30 minutes before bed time to mitigate the effects of technology on sleep.

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