Donald Trump is famous for his late-night tweeting. Does this pattern of behaviour reduce performance during the day?

Michael Vadon

Yesterday, at Sleep 2017 in Boston, researchers presented initial findings of a study looking at late-night tweeting and next-day game performance professional basketball players.

Over the course of six years, from 2009-2016, researchers drew data from the Twitter accounts of 90 National Basketball Association (NBA) players. In particular, they were interested in any athletes who made tweets between 11pm and 7am on the night before the game.

On average, late-night tweeters scored fewer points per game (8.2 versus 9.2 for non-tweeters), a lower shooting success for both field goals (36% compared to 41%) and free throws (39% against 44%). In games where a player had not been tweeting, they had a 1.7% increase in shooting accuracy compared to games where they had been on Twitter.

“Our findings are relevant beyond just sports science research,” says Lauren Hale, professor of family, population and preventive medicine in the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University. “Our results demonstrate a broader phenomenon: to perform at your personal best, you should get a full night of sleep.”

This study meshes into a wider literature on the impact of addictive screen-based devices on the quality and quantity of sleep. A statistic I still can’t get my head around is that one in three babies in America have a TV in their bedroom by the age of one and spend almost two hours in front of a screen every day. By the age of eight, these figures have swollen, so that almost half of young children in the US have a TV in their room. These figures come from a study published in 2011, so lord knows what they are now. They will only have gone up.

In the UK, children typically consume an average of over six hours of screen-based media every day. In the US, it’s probably more like seven and a half hours. In Canada it’s nearly eight. In essence, children in the developed world are spending more than half their waking lives in front of a screen.

The impact of screens on sleep is not just a problem for young children and adolescents. In adults too, more screen time tends to result in less sleep, either eating into the amount of time available for kipping or, perhaps by slowing down the circadian rhythm, disrupting its quality.

Measuring performance of basketball players is relatively straight-forward but someone now needs to carry out the same analysis on Donald Trump. There are several obvious next-day metrics that might be used to correlate with the President’s late-night tweeting: frequency of using the words “the wall”, “travel ban”, “lock her up”; probability of having a run-in with the security services, international leaders; number of GBU43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast’s dropped or, perhaps, vaginas grabbed at per hour.

Donald Trump, basketball and the dangers of late-night tweeting
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