Sleep deprivation is known to have large neurobehavioral impacts. New research indicates that the President of the United States is not immune from these negative consequences.
The study, published in Economic Letters, suggests that Donald Trump’s sleeping habits have become worse over time — and this change is correlated with reductions in his performance.
“Economists recently have taken a greater interest in studying sleep. Analyzing a proxy for President Trump’s sleep over time was feasible thanks to his frequent Twitter use,” said study author Douglas Almond, a professor at Columbia University.
Almond and his colleague, Xinming Du, collected an assortment of data to examine the relationship between Trump’s sleeping schedule and his performance.
The researchers used Trump’s public schedule and the timing of his frequent Twitter posts to infer his sleeping habits during 1,200 nights since the president took office in January 2017. To gauge Trump’s performance on the social media platform, Almond and his colleague analyzed the number of likes, retweets, and replies generated by each of Trump’s tweets.
They also used the Washington Post’s Fact Checker database to judge the veracity of the president’s Twitter statements, and used Factbase’s independent text analysis to examine the dominant emotions present in 1,950 interviews and speeches since his inauguration. Finally, the researchers incorporated presidential election scores from BetData, which tracks betting odds for potential candidates.
“To the extent our sleep proxy is valid, the president is sleeping much less than he did early in his presidency,” Almond told PsyPost.
The researchers found that Trump became progressively more likely to stay up late as his first term progressed. The frequency of his Twitter activity between 11:00pm and 2:00am has increased by 317% — from under one day per week in 2017 to 3 days a week in 2020. Trump now appears to sleep for fewer than 6 hours on average.
This reduction in sleep was associated with systematic differences in his performance. Following one of his late nights, people were more likely to wager on Trump’s opponent winning the 2020 election, and his tweets received 7,400 fewer likes, 1,300 fewer retweets and 1,400 fewer replies compared to average. In addition, the proportion of Trump’s happy emotions decreased and the proportion of his angry emotions substantially increased in his public comments following sleep deprivation.
But, surprisingly, the researchers found no evidence that sleep deprivation made Trump more likely to tweet false information.
The results are in line with a previous study, which found that late-night tweeting was associated with reductions in next-day game performance among professional basketball players. But the new study — like all research — includes some limitations.
“There is no nifty natural experiment here, so findings are descriptive and not causal. We only observe a proxy for his sleep,” Almond said.
The study was titled: “Later bedtimes predict President Trump’s performance“.