Social media is great. It connects us with people we care about (along with people we barely know), no matter the distance. But, no one is denying that it’s addictive. It’s especially easy to get sucked in at night before bedtime, checking in on your favorite profiles and feeds, seeing how many likes you can get, pining over the Instagram perfection of other people’s lives. It’s a great way to lose some sleep. If you’re tossing and turning on the regular, it’s likely that your social media addiction could be to blame.
According to a recent study conducted by University of Pittsburgh, those who frequently visit social media sites are twice as likely to toss and turn at night than those who check their accounts rarely. Over 1,700 young adults were sampled, ages 19 to 32. They answered surveys about their sleep and social media habits. Overall, the young adults spent an average of 61 minutes per day on social media and visited their various accounts around 30 times a week. Almost 30 percent of those studied consistently suffered high levels of disturbed sleep.
Interestingly, it appears that frequency of social media use is more damning to sleep than the total amount of time spent. Those who spent to most time on social media were twice as likely to experience poor sleep than those who spent the least time. However, those who checked their accounts more frequently during the week were three times more likely to experience sleep disturbances than those who checked less often, regardless of the time they spent logged in. So, if you’re checking Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook more than once or twice a day, regardless of how long you spend online, you may be committing some serious damage to the quality of your sleep.
How can social media disturb sleep? For one, the blue screen light of technological devices can disrupt circadian rhythms, throwing off your sleep schedule and causing disruptions during the night. Two, frequently checking social media accounts can actually cause a significant amount of social stress, which can lead to difficulty winding down and falling asleep. Lastly, the temptation of social media may cause people to procrastinate on going to sleep, leading to less sleep overall.
Conversely, it’s also possible that people who experience challenges staying asleep may use social media more as a way to pass the wakeful hours of the night, using it as a distraction from a deeper sleep issue. Regardless, it’s a good idea to limit your evening technology use. An hour or two before bed, try placing all of your electronics in a drawer until morning. Cozy up with a good book, take an epsom salt bath or listen to classical music to help you unwind prior to bedtime. Having this technology-free hour every night not only may help you sleep better, but it can also encourage you to become more mindful and relaxed in your evenings.
Think you can’t live without your evening social media fix? If you’re a social media addict, try a challenge. For one week—a paltry 7 days—nix all social media use for two hours before bedtime. After a week, check in how you feel. Are you sleeping better? Do you feel more calm and relaxed? Sleep is paramount to good health, so try to make sure the only tweets that wake you up are the ones fluttering outside your bedroom window every morning.