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Late-night scrolling leads to a decrease in athletic performance

A new study suggests that late night social media activity isn't good for athletic performance

— by Madeleine Kelly

Smartphones have become ubiquitous in the North American lifestyle. For many of us, they’re the last thing we see when we go to bed and the first thing we wake up to.

Researchers at Stony Brook University used NBA players tweets as a way to examine their sleep habits and athletic performance. The researchers found that the total points scored, shooting percentage and rebounds all were lower among athletes who had tweeted late at night. Their sample consisted of NBA players who maintained an active verified Twitter account between 2009 and 2016, and late-night tweeting was defined as 11 p.m. through 7 a.m.

Related: Five tips to sleep better at night

As we know, sleep is very important for recovery and performance. When you’re catching some zzz’s, all of the hard work you put in on the bike can start to really take form. Lots of research has been done on the topic, and the research is conclusive that sleep is essential for recovery and performance. But limited research has been done to measure the real-life effect during sports events of sleep deprivation from the night before, because what athlete is willing to sacrifice sleep before a big performance for the sake of an experiment?

Since it remains unknown exactly how sleep deprivation effects game-day performances, this study equated late-night tweeting to athletes who likely suffered poor sleeping patterns. “Here, we merged two publicly available data sets to jointly measure late-night social media activity (a proxy for sleep deprivation) and next-day game performance.”

Related: Seven foods for a better sleep

Researchers also took it one step further and examined the difference in game performance between frequent late-night tweeters and infrequent late-night tweeters. They found that game day stats were worse in players who were infrequent late-night tweeters, suggesting that they weren’t accustomed to being sleep deprived.

Researchers recognized that late-night tweeting is only a proxy for sleep deprivation. “Although it signals that a player is awake at a certain time, it cannot capture total sleep duration, sleep timing, and sleep quality.”

This story first appeared on Canadian Running Magazine.