The worrisome link between sleep deprivation & social media

A decade ago, only college kids and geeks hung out on Facebook. Today, social media is as mainstream as Netflix, drawing us in with equal amounts of information and entertainment – through a multitude of digital channels and devices. And we love how it helps us stay in touch with friends and family and current events – not to mention all the procrastination opportunities.

Ever wondered how all that tweeting, facebooking and instagraming is affecting your sleep? According to recently released research, your sleep may be the sacrificial lamb of social media.

Sleep deprivation & your digital life

social media jet lagIn early 2016, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh released a sleep study about the social media habits of almost 2,000 people (age 19-32) on the link between their online habits and sleep health. The analysis of social media habits involved both frequency and volume.

  • Social media volume is defined as the amount of time spent daily on social sites, such as Facebook
  • Social media frequency is a measure of the number of daily visits to social sites. Information on sleep habits, preferences and experiences were patient-reported.
  • Sleep deprivation is defined as lack of sleep. Acute or short term sleep deprivation can be as short as one night of sleeplessness caused by caused by a stressful situation like a job loss, death or hormone fluctuations. Chronic sleep deprivation that lasts for years can put you at risk for serious health issues.

Not surprisingly, they found heavy digital users reported more sleeping problems than their less-digitally-connected
counterparts. Because sleep data was self-reported, researchers can report a strong connection between social media use and lack of sleep – but they can’t say it’s a cause.

Not to be Captain Obvious, but teens and college-age adults who kept their phones near their beds were more likely to check social media throughout the night. What’s interesting though is that these sleep-deprived-teens were more likely to use medication to combat daytime tiredness. Another 2016 study (by the same researchers) found an alarming link between social media use and depression. A similar 2015 study found a disturbing correlation between social media use, sleep-deprivation and low self-esteem, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

Sleep deprivation & depression

Doctors have long understood that depression and sleep can dramatically impact each other. People who suffer from depression very often struggle with sleep and people with sleep problems are at a higher risk for depression. Adding social media to this equation makes the health impacts even more dangerous.

Sleep deprivation, social media & setting boundaries

With digital media at our fingertips 24/7, it’s easy to understand how establishing and maintaining boundaries can feel impossible. And social media isn’t the root of all evil but it’s clear overuse – especially during our sleeping hours – can be dangerous.

Balance is possible with a little planning.

If you need to have your electronics in bed with you, turn your mobile phone on sleep mode before bed and adjust your settings so only high priority calls will ring through – otherwise the device will remain silent for the duration of the night. If you don’t need your device bedside throughout the night, follow these tips for better social media and sleep balance.

Tips to help you get ready for bed

  • Create a family charging station for all mobile devices throughout the night in a common room in the home – kitchen, family room, etc.
  • Turn off all screens an hour before bed to give your eyes a break from the blue light and prepare your mind for sleep. Yes, this includes your TV and iPad.
  • Use a real alarm clock instead of your phone if you can’t keep your fingers from checking your phone throughout the night.

Tips to avoid using your phone at night

  • Use a nightlight so there’s no need to turn on a light.
  • Resist the urge to check social media. Use the restroom or read a book instead to help get yourself back to sleep.
  • Read a real book – the kind made with paper – instead of your kindle or tablet.

Need some help to get better sleep? We’ve found some iPhone & Android apps and 6 relaxing videos to help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. Hopefully by following these few tips, you’ll be able to catch better quality zzz’s and wake up feeling well-rested and ready for your day.

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This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

Get better sleep, today

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