A new study, to be presented this spring, suggests that browsing your feed a few dozen times a day could be a symptom of sleep deprivation. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, analyzed the activities of a group of 76 undergrads and found that those who weren't logging enough sleep at night were logging more time on the social-networking site during the day.
Over the course of one week, informatics professor Gloria Mark, PhD, and her team gathered computer and smartphone data from the study participants with special software. The students also completed a sleep survey each morning and night; and throughout the week, the researchers polled them on their moods, how engaged they felt with their work, and how difficult they perceived various tasks to be.
After the researchers accounted for gender, age, work loads, and deadlines, they discovered a direct link between chronic lack of sleep, worsening mood and productivity, and increased web browsing, including Facebook checking. They also found that the exhausted subjects shifted their attention from one screen to the next more often than the well-rested students.
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“When you get less sleep, you’re more prone to distraction,” Mark explained in a press release. “If you’re being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It’s lightweight, it’s easy, and you’re tired.” Another finding to note: Sleep-deprived students said they felt that social media helped keep them energized.
If you catch yourself compulsively toggling back and forth to Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat, it can't hurt to start hitting the hay earlier. Pretty soon you may find you don't need a social media fix just to stay alert.