Before the workday even begins, a number of decisions can thwart your success on the job. Some may be made by a toxic manager with unreasonable objectives and expectations and are outside your control. But others, like how much you prepare before a big day, are well within your power.
Sleep deprivation is one of the most basic factors known to predict next-day productivity. How late you stay up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. can affect your work performance, argues a new study in the journal Sleep Health.
To test this, researchers looked at one kind of employee whose every move is scrutinized for maximum productivity: NBA players.
There are detailed public records of how famous professional athletes perform at their jobs, and some of those data points can be easily matched with Twitter time stamps. Researchers analyzed 37,073 tweets made by 112 NBA players from 2009 to 2016, finding a link between late-night activity and poorer next-day game performance.
Players who tweeted between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. local time before a scheduled game scored fewer points and had fewer rebounds. Efficiency fell. On average, their shooting percentage dropped by 1.7 percentage points after late-night tweeting. It got worse for players who were infrequent late-night tweeters, falling about 3.7 percentage points.
Overall, late-night tweeters had fewer fouls and turnovers, but that may be because they also played less time. Late-night tweeters played an average of two minutes less per game, perhaps because coaches could see the difference in players who were rested and those who were not.
“It is possible that coaches may recognize early and subtle indicators of poor performance among those who have stayed up late the night before a game and pull these players off the court sooner,” the study authors wrote.
Using late-night tweeting to examine someone’s sleep habits is using only a proxy for the real thing, though. The authors were not in the players’ bedrooms, seeing how long or how well they slept. The study acknowledges that the results are correlative and do not account for unknown factors affecting performance, like personal stress players were facing.
Still, Jason J. Jones, a Stony Brook University assistant professor of sociology and the study’s lead author, said the findings can be generalized, underscoring the importance of sleep.
“The best way to avoid the problem [of poor next-day performance] is to practice good sleep hygiene,” he said. “Personally, I try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. and use night-mode settings on screens in the evening.”
Learning when it is OK to scroll through social media and when you need to turn off your phone is all about balance, Jones suggested.
“Of course, I break these rules when I feel like it,” he said. “Productivity isn’t the only goal in life, and I am frequently OK with trading a little productivity in exchange for late-night fun.“
In other words, your late-night habits can shift depending on your priorities for the next day. The fact is, when you are tweeting late, you could be sleeping. Whether you are an NBA player in the midst of a slump or an office employee with a big project ahead, the advice is the same: To increase your chances of next-day success, log off Twitter the night before and go to bed.