Night time social media could be damaging sleep


Teenagers who engage with social media during the night could be damaging their sleep and increasing their risk of depression and anxiety, according to new research by Glasgow University.

The study, reported in The Guardian, found that while overall use of social media affects the quality of sleep, those who log on at night to respond to alerts are particularly affected.

It remains unclear, however, whether it is social media that is damaging sleep, or whether teenagers turn to social media because they can’t sleep for some other reason.

The study found that children as young as 11 were using Facebook and Twitter extensively. Some pupils were using multiple devices – a phone and a tablet for example – to view multiple sites simultaneously and were on them into the early hours of the morning.

Cleland Woods, who presented the paper at a British Psychological Society conference in Manchester, said: “Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this.

“It is important that we understand how social media use relates to these. Evidence is increasingly supporting a link between social media use and wellbeing, particularly during adolescence, but the causes of this are unclear.”

She continued: “While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected. This may be mostly true of individuals who are highly emotionally invested. This means we have to think about how our kids use social media, in relation to time for switching off.”

As well as being asked about their social media habits, the pupils, aged between 11 and 17, were also asked to respond to a questionnaire which measured sleep quality, self-esteem, anxiety and depression. They were also asked about their emotional investment in social media, the pressure they felt to be available 24/7, and the resulting anxiety if they did not respond immediately to texts or posts.

Preliminary analysis of the research showed overall social media use, and specifically night-time use, was related to poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety and depression. A pronounced emotional investment in social media had a similar effect.