The New Reason Athletes Should Be Careful When They Tweet

Their performance could be at stake.

Twitter-use has been known to get athletes in trouble, but public outcry over an impulsive post isn’t the only thing for athletes to think about when signing in to their accounts, a recent study reveals. When athletes post — not only what they post — can be damaging. According to researchers at Stony Brook University, late-night tweeting by NBA players is linked to worse performance on the court the next day.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

The research was presented at SLEEP 2017, the annual meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

Using more than 30,000 late-night tweets (posted between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.) by more than 100 NBA players, researchers studied how the players performed in games the following day. The findings were clear: their scoring dipped by about 1 point, their shooting accuracy dropped by 1.7 percentage points, and their playing time decreased by about 2 minutes. While those declines in performance might seem small, they could add up across a sleep-deprived team’s roster to make the difference in a game.

“Using late-night tweeting activity as a proxy for being up late, we interpret these data to show that basketball skills are impaired after getting less sleep,” said one of the study’s lead investigators, Jason J. Jones, Ph.D. Of course, the study doesn’t suggest that late-night Twitter use causes sleeplessness, but rather that a late-night tweet simply reveals it. That being said, other studies do show that the blue light emitted by computer and smartphone screens keeps people awake. So, if you’re restless at 1 a.m., there are better things to do than open Twitter.

All of this of course applies to people who aren’t professional athletes as well. “Our findings are relevant beyond just sports science research,” said study co-author, Lauren Hale, Ph.D., Professor of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine in the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook. “Our results demonstrate a broader phenomenon: to perform at your personal best, you should get a full night of sleep.”

Read more about the study here.