Trump's Tweets Suggest He Is Sleeping Less—and That Could Be Helping Biden, Study Says

Analysis of President Donald Trump's tweets suggests a lack of quality sleep could be impacting his presidential performances, and re-election chances.

A prolific user of the social network, Trump uses his account daily to aggressively attack political opponents, spread campaign talking points and offer commentary on news stories—often in real-time. But his use could have side effects, experts say.

An academic study conducted by Columbia University researchers Douglas Almond and Xinming Du, used the timing of his Twitter rants as a proxy for sleep duration, and how it relates to his emotional state during media appearances the following day.

Titled Later bedtimes predict President Trump's performance, the research was based on Trump's posts on the site between January 24, 2017 and April 10, providing "an unprecedented window into one of the world's most impactful sleepers."

The authors said the president rises at around 6 a.m., a time which appears unchanged since early 2017. He tweets 10 times a day, on average.

However, the research suggested the president appeared to be sleeping "substantially less" as his first term progressed through the 1,200 nights after his inauguration.

The researchers' paper, taking advantage of public timestamps on his tweets, said the frequency of the president's Twitter activity between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. increased 317 percent, from under one day per week in 2017 to three days a week in 2020.

"On the three nights a week the president tweets late in 2020, his average tweet time is 12:06 am. This suggests that when the president stays up late in 2020, he is asleep fewer than 6 hours on average," the researchers said in the study.

"If we assume that the president was sleeping his optimal—albeit short—personal amount in 2017 or 2018, this no longer appears to be the case in 2020.

"In late February-early March 2020, his fraction of nights with a late-night tweet reached a 160 week high. If the President's sleep has fallen below his optimum—and indeed perhaps well below his optimum—this provides context for interpreting the frequent official communications and policy announcements from the Executive Branch."

Furthermore, on the day following his late-night Twitter binge, the president's emotions were less likely to be "happy" and nearly three times more likely to be "angry" during his media interviews and speeches, based on data gleaned from Factba.se, a platform that tracks sentiment and emotion in the president's appearances every day.

"Despite his being happy in 88 percent of transcripts, late-tweeting nights and more late tweets appear to make him less happy the following day," researchers wrote.

"Annual mean of the happy proportion decreased from 90 percent to 85 percent after 2019, and this time trend is consistent with the trend of staying up late.

"Meanwhile, the proportion of angry transcripts increases by 2.9 percentage points after a late night, a nearly three-fold increase compared with the mean 1.1 percent."

The academics said analysis of election betting odds suggested Trump's opponent favorability would increase after he tweeted into the night, while the president's own odds did not shift—indicating it may potentially hurt his re-election efforts.

"After a late night, more people believe the leading candidate other than Trump is more likely to win and wager on Trump's opponent. The implied chance of his competitor's winning increases by 0.6 percentage points," the authors noted in the paper.

His main competition now is former vice president Joe Biden. And while 0.6 percent is a fairly minimal odds surge, the Democratic candidate is currently polling ahead of Trump with just weeks to go until the November 3 presidential election, tracking shows.

The odds data was provided by an organization called BetData, which has tracked 105 separate potential candidates since way back in November 2016.

The paper's findings suggested Trump's Twitter activity is higher between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Posts between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. were deemed "late night" based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for adequate adult sleep.

The CDC says adults over the age of 65 should aim for between seven and eight hours of sleep per night. Trump has previously claimed he sleeps about four hours. If that number is accurate, researchers said the consequences could be serious.

"Sleep deprivation has been definitively shown to impair performance. Sleep loss has also been found to impair self-control and compromise other neurobehavioral outcomes for all age groups and is associated with poorer memory, lower attentional capacity, worse cognitive skills and higher risk of incident dementia," the paper read.

Anecdotally, the frequency of Trump's tweets appears to be increasing as the 2020 U.S. election approaches, especially in the wake of his positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

He has continued to lash out at his rival candidate Joe Biden and the American media, at one point this week posting on Twitter more than 40 times in around two hours.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on his way to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on September 30, in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty