According to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine it has been found that young adults who spend a lot of time on social media during the day or check it frequently throughout the week are more likely to suffer sleep disturbances than their peers who use social media less.
“This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep,” said lead author Jessica C. Levenson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Pitt’s Department of Psychiatry. “And it uniquely examines the association between social media use and sleep among young adults who are, arguably, the first generation to grow up with social media.”
This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep
In 2014, Dr. Levenson and her colleagues sampled 1,788 U.S. adults ages 19 through 32, using questionnaires to determine social media use and an established measurement system to assess sleep disturbances.
The questionnaires asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
On average, the participants used social media a total of 61 minutes per day and visited various social media accounts 30 times per week. The assessment showed that nearly 30 percent of the participants had high levels of sleep disturbance.
The participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had three times the likelihood of sleep disturbances, compared with those who checked least frequently. And participants who spent the most total time on social media throughout the day had twice the risk of sleep disturbance, compared to peers who spent less time on social media.
“This may indicate that frequency of social media visits is a better predictor of sleep difficulty than overall time spent on social media,” Dr. Levenson explained. “If this is the case, then interventions that counter obsessive ‘checking’ behavior may be most effective.”
For example, social media may disturb sleep if it is:
- Displacing sleep, such as when a user stays up late posting photos on Instagram.
- Promoting emotional, cognitive or physiological arousal, such as when engaging in a contentious discussion on Facebook.
- Disrupting circadian rhythms through the bright light emitted by the devices used to access social media accounts.
Alternatively, young adults who have difficulty sleeping may subsequently use social media as a pleasurable way to pass the time when they can’t fall asleep or return to sleep.
So let’s not go jumping the gun and blame Facebook for why we get such terrible sleep.