Over the last five years, the demand for immediate access to the products we need has grown exponentially. With online shopping, instant gratification is always just one click away. We can now save time and money by shopping right from our phones.
More people than ever before are turning to online shopping platforms to purchase essential and non-essential items. According to Statista, worldwide e-commerce sales amounted to 2.84 trillion GBP in 2019. This number is expected to rise in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the increased demand for contact-free shopping.
With this trend also comes the ability to shop whenever and wherever we choose. We can buy a car right from our couch, or purchase groceries as we cook dinner. However, this begs the question, when are most of us shopping? With work and other responsibilities taking up most of the day, we may not always have time to shop until well into the night.
Eachnight surveyed over 1,000 people across the US about their late-night online shopping habits. This study takes a look at those who are more likely to shop after their bedtime, what items they’re purchasing, and how satisfied they were with those decisions. Although survey respondents were American, these habits are likely to take place in every country that is experiencing an increase in online shopping.
Eachnight found that 72 percent of survey participants made an online purchase after their typical bedtime within the last year. For 60 percent of these individuals, this time was between 12 and 4 a.m. Only 30 percent claimed to have never made an online purchase past their bedtime.
This survey also shows that the tendency to shop late at night was fairly consistent across age and gender. While 74 percent of women claimed to shop at night, 69 percent of men admitted to doing the same. Likewise, a high percentage of millennials were prone to late-night shopping, about 75 percent. However, 58 percent of baby boomers also made online purchases after bedtime.
These numbers suggest that all people, regardless of age or gender, frequently put off sleep in favor of online shopping. In fact, about half of the participants who were up late shopping, also claimed that they regularly felt fatigued upon waking. This is an alarming statistic when we consider how vital sleep is to our mental, physical, and emotional well being. Plus, with such a broad time frame—12 to 4 a.m.—it’s difficult to know precisely how much sleep these individuals are losing. The loss could be anywhere from 1 to 5 hours.
Sleep deprivation affects our ability to focus, perform everyday tasks, and make critical decisions. However, over time, it can also lead to serious health issues. According to the National Health Service, a lack of sleep puts us at a higher risk of developing severe medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Although it may be momentarily convenient to sacrifice sleep to take care of things like shopping and paying bills online, sleep loss comes with serious consequences.
Risky Nighttime Spending
Eachnight also found that late-night shopping led to overspending. $165 was the average amount spent on late-night purchases in the past year, while $186 was the average debt incurred from these purchases. Also, millennials were more likely to spend more than both Gen Xers and baby boomers.
These statistics suggest that the younger generation may be more prone to reckless spending when shopping late at night. This fact is perhaps not surprising when we consider that sleep loss can impair our judgment—causing us to make risky financial decisions. Studies show that sleep deprivation actually changes the way our brains assess economic value. Our late-night purchases may not seem as vital once we are properly rested and have had time to reflect on our choices.
Instant gratification could be another reason we are more prone to shop late at night. Sleep loss increases our sensitivity to positive reward and reinforcement and decreases our sensitivity to negative consequences. This combination makes us more willing to indulge in extravagant purchases we may not necessarily need. When we are tired, we are driven by the need to reward ourselves, and we are more likely to ignore any potential downside to our actions.
It makes sense then that eachnight found late-night shoppers frequently purchased expensive items such as jewelry, watches, clothing, and shoes. This category amounted to an average of $178 when shopping after bedtime. Electronics were the second most popular category for late-night buys, accounting for 37 percent of these purchases. This category was also the most costly, with shoppers spending an average of $217 on these items.
Just one hour of lost sleep results in a decrease in our cognitive abilities, and it seems that this is leading us to make expensive and frivolous purchases late at night. Instead of sleeping, we are looking for instant gratification, and online shopping is one of the most convenient ways to find it.
But how many of these late-night purchases left customers satisfied after the fact? On this, survey participants were split—half were happy with their purchases, while the other half were not. 23 percent of respondents also experienced buyer’s remorse, and 31 percent claimed to have forgotten about their late-night purchases altogether. This is not surprising since sleep loss decreases the ability to commit information to memory.
These findings suggest that the thrill of shopping online when sleep-deprived may be short-lived—resulting in regrets, returns, and money loss. Although extravagant purchases can be returned and we can often earn back the money we lost, the same is not true for sleep. Many people believe that sleep is something we can catch up on, but the idea of “sleep debt” is a myth. One to two nights of reduced sleep can result in brain fog, decreased memory, and impaired judgment, leaving us vulnerable to accidents, overspending, and, most importantly, poor health.
To avoid the dangerous effects of sleep loss, and avoid making questionable online purchases, do your best to shop when you are well-rested. Making important choices about where your money is going should be done when you have a clear head and can make the most informed decisions possible.