This Much Time On Social Media Can Ruin The Quality Of Your Sleep, Study Finds
How much time do you typically spend on social media each day? If it's around three hours or more, your screen time might be having a detrimental effect on your sleep patterns.
New research just published in the journal BMJ Open sought to explore the link between social media and sleep patterns. The researchers analyzed data on 11,872 teens from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative, multidisciplinary survey that explores adolescent development and outcomes through a range of domains, including health.
The adolescents indicated how much time they spent on social media daily, including social networking or messaging sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. In reviewing the data, the researchers found that just over a third (34%) of the teens reported spending less than one hour a day on social media (aka "low users"), while another third (32%) said they spent one to three hours a day on it ("average users"). About 14% used social media for three to five hours a day ("high users"), and just under 21% clocked more than five hours a day ("very high users").
The study's participants also reported on their typical sleep habits, including sleep and wake times, how long it took them to fall asleep, and any challenges they had falling back asleep if they were awoken during the night.
When they compared the data, heavier social media use was indeed associated with poorer sleep patterns: People who were "very high" social media users were 70% more likely to fall asleep after 11 p.m. on weekdays and after midnight on weekends than were average users. These same "very high" users reported having more trouble getting back to sleep after waking during the night. In addition, both "high" and "very high" users reported typically waking up after 8 a.m. on school days, whereas average users were more likely to rise earlier.
The negative impact of excessive screen time on one's health has been supported by numerous additional studies. A 2016 review revealed that the problematic overuse of cellphones leads to spikes in anxiety, stress, and even depression (all issues that are linked with sleep issues), while a 2014 Harvard-derived investigation proved that even using a screen to do something as seemingly harmless as read an ebook before bed cause people to take longer to fall asleep, reduced their next-morning alertness, and decreased their natural melatonin production.
There are ways to be more mindful with your social media usage and screen time, without having to go cold turkey in order to cultivate better sleeping patterns. For example, taking a day or two per week off of social media, going to bed without your phone in hand, or making a point of not engaging with social media first thing in the morning are all ways to reduce and be more mindful with your usage and, in turn, improve your overall health.
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