Social media could be affecting the sleep of young adults, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine say that young adults who often use social media are more likely to suffer sleep disturbances than those who use social media less.
According to the findings, doctors should ask young adults about their use of social media when treating sleep issues.
“This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep,” said lead author Jessica C. Levenson, a postdoctoral researcher in Pittsburgh’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.”
For the study, researchers gave questionnaires to 1,788 young adults aged 19 to 32 to find out how much they used social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapshot, Credit, Tumblr and others.
What they found was that on average, participants used social media 61 minutes a day and “visited various social media accounts 30 times per week.”
Thirty percent reported serious sleep disturbances.
Those who checked social media more frequently were three times more likely to suffer disturbances. And those who spent the most time on social media were twice as likely to suffer disturbances.
“This may indicate that frequency of social media visits is a better predictor of sleep difficulty than overall time spent on social media,” Levenson explained. “If this is the case, then interventions that counter obsessive ‘checking’ behavior may be most effective.”
Researchers say social media can influence sleep patterns in a variety of ways, including leading people to lose sleep by staying up too late checking social media; causing “emotional, cognitive or physiological arousal” over a contentious issue argued about on social media and interfering with natural circadian rhythms due to the light coming from cell phones or computer screens.
The researchers noted that in some cases, young adults who have a hard time sleeping may use social media to pass the time as they try to fall asleep.
“It also may be that both of these hypotheses are true,” said Brian A. Primack, director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, and the study’s senior author. “Difficulty sleeping may lead to increased use of social media, which may in turn lead to more problems sleeping. This cycle may be particularly problematic with social media because many forms involve interactive screen time that is stimulating and rewarding and, therefore, potentially detrimental to sleep.”
The study will be published in the April issue of the journal Preventative Medicine.