Facebook may help or hurt relationships, take up too much of your time, or satisfy your craving for cute cat photos. It turns out that the popular social media site may also be a good measure of how tired you are.
While it’s clear that information technologies like Facebook can cause people to lose sleep, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, decided to examine whether sleep duration impacts how often people use Facebook. They looked at sleep duration in 76 college students as well as their use of computers and smart phones. The study participants also filled out questionnaires and were interviewed by the researchers.
The findings showed that lack of sleep leads to more frequent online activities, such as browsing Facebook. The less sleep the participants reported, the more they relied on browsing Facebook. People who slept less tended to shift attention among electronics more frequently, suggesting a connection between lack of sleep and distractibility, says lead researcher Gloria Mark, a UCI Informatics professor who will present the study findings at a computer-human interaction conference later this year.
“When you get less sleep, you’re more prone to distraction,” she says. “If you’re being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It’s lightweight, it’s easy, and you’re tired.”
Sleep deprivation is an important problem because it leads to economic losses in productivity, has the potential to cause accidents at work or on the road, and is linked to illness. Experts in human-computer interaction want to find out how sleep affects people in order to design more effective technology, Mark says.