How Social Media Disrupts Sleep in Teenagers

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Written by Terre Grable

January 6, 2019

social media disrupts sleep in teenagersDo you have a teenager or child that is regularly on social media? Do they often complain of feeling tired and not getting enough sleep? While many contributors affect a teenager’s sleep, a recent Canadian study sought to investigate further how social media disrupts sleep in middle and high school students.

How Social Media Disrupts Sleep In Teenagers

The study was fairly large. The researchers asked 5400 middle and high school students about the number of hours they slept each night and compared how many hours a day was spent on social media – either posting or just browsing. Less than half of the students stated they received the recommended about of 8 – 11 hours per night for their age group. Nearly three-fourths of the same groups of students reported using social media for at least 1 hour per day, with some even being on social media for over 6 hours per day. Despite accounting for other factors that contributed to poor sleep, the observation between shorter sleep and social media use was present.

The exact reason social media disrupts sleep, especially in teenagers and children can be  complicated. Some teenagers state they utilize social media to help them wind down before they to sleep and lose track of the amount of time they are on it. Others may have only engaged with social media in response to a friend’s initiation. Or others could have already been experiencing nighttime awakenings and browsed social media as a distraction. Indeed, the amount of variables creates a difficulty to make a direct connection that social media by itself creates sleep difficulty.

Social media is here to stay. Gone are the days that teenagers will speak with their friends on the phone.  Social media is a primary manner teenagers stay connected to the world and their circle of friends.  It is also a significant asset for students and educators to learn in a more creative dynamic.  So while social media disrupts sleep, it is equally beneficial by the opportunities it presents to teenagers.

So then, what is the recommended amount of social media use for middle and high school students? Well, there is no definitive answer for children beyond six years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers no specific guidelines as to time limits. However, recognizing the priority of other activities over social media, the AAP recommends parents should help “..children prioritize productive time over entertainment time.” Activities such as sports, spending time with friends outside of social media and other extracurricular activities are more important than spending time on social media.

Engaging in other activities outside of social media will also benefit teenagers sleep. Exercise, hobbies and social commitments are all great examples of things we can do to strengthen our innate desire for healthy rest. Being active throughout the day creates a stronger need for sleep at night, which helps you sleep longer and deeper. Excessive social media interactions limit the time we can be active in the daytime and thereby decreases our need for sleep at night.

Social Media Disrupts Sleep in Adults Also

Although the study focused primarily on teenagers, social media disrupts sleep in adults as well, perhaps even in greater numbers.  One does not have to look very far to figure out where teenagers learned their social media habits.  The same suggestions could be helpful for adults also.  Engaging in activities that require us to be unplugged offer emotional and physical benefits. Social media offers so many benefits like improved education, communicating with different people and economic capabilities. Like anything else, moderation is essential for enhanced sleep.

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