Facebook is now a part of life, at least those who practice compulsive checking of their accounts. If you're one of them, this may be caused by lack of sleep, or the other way around.

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine found that most students who lack adequate sleep turn to Facebook. Researchers found a direct link among lack of sleep, chronic fatigue, crankiness and greater reliance on Internet use.

In the study, the researchers showed that sleep deprivation, aside from affecting one's productivity and mood, can lead to frequent Internet browsing such as checking Facebook accounts.

"When you get less sleep, you're more prone to distraction. If you're being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It's lightweight, it's easy, and you're tired," Gloria Mark, a UCI informatics professor, said.

Lack of sleep has long been linked to a lot of health problems including cardiovascular diseases. It also affects one's mood, productivity and concentration. With the emergence of social media today, many studies have associated compulsive use of the Internet to lack of sleep. The new study, however, examines the possibility that frequent Internet use throughout the day may have been started off with lack of sleep in the first place.

"There have been lots of studies on how information technology affects sleep. We did the opposite: We looked at how sleep duration influences IT usage," Mark said.

To get to their findings, the researchers collected and analyzed data from more than 70 students for one week. The study involved using sensors to detect and measure activities, stress levels and behaviors. The researchers also kept track of Internet use by having the participants' smartphones and computers downloaded with a logging software. This enabled the researchers to record the time spent when the participants transferred from one app window to another.

The researchers assessed the participants' mood, difficulty in performing tasks and productivity at work throughout the study period. The findings demonstrate a direct link among chronic sleep deprivation, bad mood and greater dependence on Facebook usage. Those who are sleep-deprived are also at greater risk of shifting from one browser to another showing increased distractibility.

Mark will present the findings of the study at a conference for Human-Computer Interaction at San Jose, California in May.

Photo : Michael Coghlan | Flickr 

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