Researchers at the University of California, Irvine demonstrated that lack of sleep - in addition to affecting busy college students' moods and productivity - leads to more frequent online activities such as browsing Facebook.

"When you get less sleep, you're more prone to distraction," said lead researcher Gloria Mark, a UCI informatics professor.

Sleep deprivation can lead to loss of productivity throughout the economy. It can cause workplace mishaps and make drivers fall asleep at the wheel. Experts in the field of human-computer interaction want to know how sleep loss impacts people so they can design better technologies and products.

Mark and her colleagues collected data from 76 undergraduates - 34 males and 42 females - for seven days during the spring 2014 quarter.

Central to the study was a concept known as 'sleep debt', the accumulated difference between the amount of sleep needed and the amount experienced. Mark said the study's findings show a direct connection among chronic lack of sleep, worsening mood and greater reliance on Facebook browsing.

She also found that the less sleep people have, the more frequently their attention shifts among different computer screens, suggesting heightened distractibility.

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