Young adults who spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may pay the price in poor sleep, new research suggests.
“This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep,” lead author Jessica Levenson, a postdoctoral researcher in psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
Her team tracked the social media use and sleep troubles of nearly 1,800 Americans aged 19 to 32.
On average, participants said they spent 61 minutes a day on social media and visited social media sites 30 times a week. Nearly 30 percent of the participants also said they suffered sleep disturbances.
While the study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, Levenson’s team found that people who spent the most time on social media each day were twice as likely to have sleep problems as those who spent less time on social media.
People who checked social media most often during the week were also three times more likely to have sleep problems than those who checked the least often, the study found.
The findings, released online in advance of publication in the April print issue of the journal Preventive Medicine, suggest that doctors may need to ask about social media when assessing sleep problems in young adults, the researchers said.
The young adults questioned in the study are “arguably, the first generation to grow up with social media,” Levenson pointed out.
Study senior author Dr. Brian Primack said there are a number of ways that too much surfing on social media might get in the way of a good night’s sleep.
For example: it could replace sleep, such as when someone stays up late using social media; it could cause emotional, mental or physical arousal, such as when involved in contentious discussions; or the bright light emitted by devices might disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms.
Some young adults may also use social media to pass the time when they can’t fall asleep or get back to sleep, said Primack, who directs the university’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health.
“Difficulty sleeping may lead to increased use of social media, which may in turn lead to more problems sleeping,” he said. “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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sleep.