We've all been there: You're on your phone, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. You're seeing posts that you first saw hours ago. Hey, there's the video of that dog tucking in a baby again. Gosh you love dog videos.
And the scrolling continues.
Suddenly, amid numbly liking photos and blankly staring at your screen, you realize how tired you feel. Facebook doesn't make you tired, does it? Actually, a recent study shows it may be just the opposite.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine believe they've found a link between a lack of sleep and excessive time spent online, such as browsing Facebook.
"When you get less sleep, you're more prone to distraction," explained UCI informatics professor and lead researcher Gloria Mark. "If you're being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It's lightweight, it's easy, and you're tired."
Extensive research has already found a link between a lack of sleep in teens and an inability to concentrate, poor grades, and even depression. And since almost half of them own a smartphone, it puts a resource for distraction right in their hands, further affecting their focus.
For the study, Mark's team collected data from 76 UC Irvine undergraduates (42 females and 34 males) and equipped their smartphones and computers with software to track their online behavior and even when they spoke on the phone or texted.
The study focuses around the concept of "sleep debt", meaning the difference between the amount of sleep a person needs and how much they actually get.
"There have been lots of studies on how information technology affects sleep," Mark said. "We did the opposite: We looked at how sleep duration influences IT usage."
During the 7-day study, the students received questions from the research team about their mood, perceived difficulty of whatever task they had at hand, and how engaged with said task they were.
The study, according to Mark, found a direct connection between a lack of sleep and the amount of time spent browsing online. The study also found that the less sleep the students got, the more frequently their attention shifted between different computer screens.
Their findings appear fairly conclusive. So the next time you find yourself thumbing through your Instagram feed or re-reading a political post from that one friend you don't even take seriously anyway, consider the idea that you may not simply be bored, but rather possibly sleep deprived.
Let's make sure we all minimize our online browsing, stay focused throughout the day and get a good night's sleep each night. Your brain--and your phone's battery--will thank you.