Social Media and Lack of Sleep

sleepy teenI love social media and admit my addiction. On balance it’s a wonderful way to maintain relationships, find out what’s new among people you know, and in the world in general.

But there are downsides that are becoming more apparent every day. A recent Struming, Does Social Media Cause Anxiety?, looked at behavior of heavy social users which showed that they were more anxious. One of the reasons for the anxious behavior is that heavy users may be sleeping less.

There’s a new study by researchers from the University-based Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research Data which indicates that more than 20% of all teens say they always wake up during the night to look at posts or messages. Since the majority of us now have an intimate relationship with our smartphones (we take the phone to bed) I suspect more than teens exhibit this behavior. Here are key excerpts from the report.

The team’s findings on teenage sleep patterns are drawn from statistical analysis of a survey of 412 pupils in year eight (aged 12 and 13) and 436 pupils in year 10 (aged 14 and 15), educated in secondary schools across Wales.
The sleep-disrupting use of social media at night seems to be impacting on pupils’ overall happiness, with lower levels of wellbeing reported by those who wake to use social networks.

Those surveyed were also asked how often they felt tired at school. More than half of those who reported “almost always” waking to use social media also said they “almost always” go to school feeling tired.This was much higher than the overall percentage of respondents saying they “almost always” feel tired at school, which was 32 per cent among year 8 pupils and 39 per cent among year 10s.The researchers also found a strong association between pupils reporting having a regular time when they woke up in the morning and not feeling tired.

“It seems [very] important to discourage adolescents from using social media during the night. No amount of effort to develop regular bedtimes or to lengthen the time in bed would seem to be able to compensate for the disruption that this can cause.”

“Having a regular morning routine may actually prove to be a very important feature in helping adolescents concentrate and enjoy their learning, something that may actually be undermined by changes to the school day.”
Sleep patterns also seem to have a clear impact on pupils’ overall reported level of well-being. The pupils were asked how happy they were, on a scale of one to seven. Among the younger pupils, those who reported nearly always feeling tired were nearly a point less happy on average, while among the older group, those reporting as nearly always tired were half a point less happy.

So all is not well among teens (and us adults) who use social media heavily. What’s a parent of a teenager to do? Just as importantly what’s an adult to do to withdraw from social usage that’s over the top.

Interesting problems that didn’t exist 10 years ago.

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