Verses: Does Social Media Use Actually Improve Your Sleep?

As social media use steadily increases, are its negative effects on sleeping patterns dwindling?

Verses: The Versed considers current social, cultural, and political issues and weighs up both sides of the argument.

There’s a general notion in the collective psyche of modern society that ‘social media use ruins sleeping patterns’. Although no one is entirely sure where they picked up this morsel of information, it’s generally taken as ‘fact’.But is the link between the use of these platforms and sleeping patterns as one-way as you might think? Is there even a link at all?

Sleep and social media

An independent survey found that the opposite of this hypothesis was true. Data collected from nearly 1000 participants found that those who said they “never” use social media actually sleep less than those who do.

Those who claimed that they “never” used social media had an average of around 6.31 hours sleep per night while those who said they use social media “regularly” had 6.77 hours. In addition, participants who said they only use social media “sometimes” had an average of 6.80 hours.

The overwhelming majority of those surveyed were based in the UK (896) while there was a smattering of individuals from other European countries including Spain (6) the Netherlands (3) and Ireland (3). The average age of the participants was 46.

Social media does, of course, have positives. It can help people connect, stay in touch with friends, organise and discover events in their area, join groups with other like-minded individuals and act as a place of expression. All of these things can help to make people have more of a sense of belonging and identity, and make them feel happier. This, in turn, can lead to better sleeping patterns.

As society becomes increasingly acclimatised to the heavy use of smartphone technology and social media, are the negative effects of such use dwindling?

Photo by Gilles Lambert

Social sleepers

The overwhelming majority of studies, however, find that an increased use of social media does in fact have a measurable negative impact on sleeping patterns.

Recent research findings published in January 2018 found that “The more time young people spent on sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp, the more likely they were to be sleep deprived”.

The research, carried out in Canada, concluded that “Around two out of three 11-20-year-olds were getting less than the recommended amount of sleep” and of those who participated, 73.4 percent claimed to use social media for at least one hour per day.

More recently still, in May 2018, the Oxford University Press Blog (OUPBlog) published a post entitled ‘Social media use and disturbed sleep’ in which it is suggested that because social media use is less “passive” than other forms of media consumption, such as watching television, it may have more disruptive effects.

The post, co authored by clinical psychologist Jessica C. Levenson and Dr. Jaime E. Sidani who specialises in social media and mental health, states that those who most often check their social media before bed were 1.5 times more likely to have disrupted sleep than those who most often check it at other times of the day.

They added that “This was still true even when we considered how much participants used social media across the entire day”. While increased use overall can negatively impact on sleep, decreasing use just before bed could be a useful way to reduce these negative effects if you’re not able or unwilling to reduce usage during other points of the day.

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