Don’t Be Tweeting When You Should Be Sleeping

Feb 10, 2016, by Dr. Becky Coats

Social media can be one of the biggest time sucks in our day. Supposed to be working? Nope, you’re Facebooking. Dishes need doing? Sure, as soon as you find the right filter for that Instagram post. And don’t admit that you burned the sauce because you were Snapchatting when you should have been stirring.

But perhaps the worst is when people are tweeting when they should be sleeping. Especially for young adults, it turns out that social media is associated with lost or disturbed sleep.

Young couple with smartphones in their bed

Young Adult Addiction

This new study comes from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, where researchers used a survey or nearly 1800 young adults in the US, age 19 through 32. They asked about engagement with 11 popular social media sites, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, and LinkedIn. They also asked questions related to the frequency and quality of sleep.

On average, these young adults spent just over an hour a day (61 minutes) on social media sites, and visited their various accounts about 30 times a week.

Overall, about 30% of young adults in the survey reported sleep disturbance, but excessive social media use was associated with significantly higher risks of sleep disturbance. Researchers also discovered that it wasn’t the amount of time spent on social media that was linked most closely to sleep disturbance–it was the number of times they checked their accounts. Those who spent the most time on social media were about twice as likely as the average to have sleep disturbance. But those who checked their accounts most often were three times as likely to have sleep disturbance.

For people who do experience sleep disturbance related to social media, researchers suggest that effective therapy might target obsessive checking of social media accounts.

What Is the True Cause?

But it’s important to note that this study just shows correlation, not causation. We don’t know that social media is actually causing disturbed sleep. Instead, people might be more likely to check social media after their sleep has been disturbed, Researchers even point out that it might be a little of each: people check social media when they can’t sleep, then can’t sleep because they’re checking social media.

However, researchers point out that there are three ways that social media could cause sleep disturbance:

  • When people check social media before bed, they get excited and can’t sleep
  • People spend time checking social media when they should be sleeping
  • Light from devices interrupt the production of sleep hormones

The good news is that if you think social media might be interrupting your sleep, there are several things you can do to reduce the impact.

Social Media and Sleep Hygiene

If social media is causing sleep problems, you have to take steps to curb the problem. First, banish your smartphone, tablet, or laptop from your bedroom. If you use it as your alarm, find another solution. We know this is like asking you to cut off your right hand, but if it causes you to sin . . . Seriously, the light from the device is disruptive, so if you have it nearby, it can cause problems. And if it’s convenient to your bed, you’re more likely to reach over and check it first thing when you’re having difficulty sleeping.

Second, find something else to do if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep. You’re more likely to be able to fall back asleep if you read a book, crochet, or work on a jigsaw puzzle in the middle of the night. Not only are these activities potentially more soothing, but they don’t include disruptive light.

Finally, if you determine that it really is keeping you from falling asleep at night, treat it like foods and drinks that disrupt your sleep, such as caffeine and alcohol: avoid it for several hours before bed.

But If It’s Not Social Media

But what if you find that you’ve cut social media out of your nighttime routine and you’re still exhausted all day? In that case, consider other explanations for your daytimes sleepiness, including sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is when your breathing gets interrupted at night, and while you sleep, causing you to wake up possibly hundreds of times a night, though you might not notice, or only notice once or twice. Sleep apnea is potentially deadly, but there’s also a comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatment that can reduce or eliminate the risks.

To learn more about sleep apnea in Grapevine, please call (817) 481-6888 for an appointment with a sleep dentist at Grapevine Dental Care today.