Just one hour of social media a day can ruin a whole night's sleep

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Emily Reynolds
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It may seem harmless, but new research suggests that just one hour of social media a day may be having a significant impact on our sleep patterns. 

We probably all know by now that looking at your phone right before bed is a bad idea if you want to get a good night’s sleep. But new research has suggested that even an hour of social media a day can have a big impact on your sleep. 

The study, published in the paediatric medical journal Acta Paediatrica, looked at over 5000 students aged between 11 and 20, measuring how long they slept compared to the recommended ranges for children their age. At 11 to 13, researchers say, subjects should have been sleeping 11 hours a night; at 14 to 17 they should have been sleeping for eight to ten hours; and when they hit 18 they should have been sleeping seven to nine hours.

But when subjects had used social media – including Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or WhatsApp – for longer than an hour a day, researchers found that they were failing to hit these targets by a significant degree; just 36% of the students hit their targets. Most of the students (73.4%) used social media for at least an hour a day. 

Researchers also found that students using social media for more than an hour a day were even more likely to have their sleep impacted. Teenage girls were more likely to be “addicted to social media” and for this to have an adverse impact on their sleep than boys.

“Sleep is an essential component of healthy development and an important contributor to physical health and mental health,” said senior author Dr Jean-Philippe Chaput. “However, insufficient sleep has become widespread among adolescents over the last few decades.”

“Insufficient sleep among adolescents has often been attributed to factors such as artificial light, caffeine use, no bedtime rules in the household and the increased availability of information and communication technology.”

“The impact social media can have on sleep patterns is a topic of great interest given the well-known adverse effects of sleep deprivation on health. Electronic screen devices are pervasive in today’s society and we are just starting to understand their risks and benefits.”

More and more research is going into understanding how social media impacts on our sleep. 

 “Exposure to it impacts both how long we sleep for and also our readiness for sleep.”  Dr Sophie Bostock told Stylist’s Alix Walker. “Emails and social media can make you stressed, meaning you produce cortisol that increases your heart rate and blood pressure and suppresses melatonin, making it very hard to sleep.”

Excessive social media usage has also been linked to depression and low mood. 

Image: Vladislav Muslakov