TIME TO UNPLUG?

Researchers have established a worrisome link between social media usage and sleep

Obsession
Life as Laboratory
Obsession
Life as Laboratory

The regular, sometimes absent-minded act of checking social media may be having profound effects on your sleep.

A recent study (paywall) by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that young adults who spend significant time on social media each day typically get less sleep than those who use social media less often. Those who reported spending the most time on social media also had the hardest time sleeping.

The study surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 1,700 US adults between the ages of 19 and 32 about their social media and sleeping habits. Respondents answered a baseline survey and a follow-up 18 months later, in which they were asked to report how much time they spent on social media each day, how often they frequented social channels each week, and how well they slept within the last week of being surveyed.

The respondents spent a median of 61 minutes on social media each day and checked their social channels an average of 30 times a week. Nearly 60% of them reported having some or a lot of trouble sleeping through the night.

Among those who used social media more often—at least 121 minutes a day and 58 visits per week, which was the case for more than a fifth of the respondents—nearly 30% reported a high degree of difficulty sleeping.

The report cautioned that there are many reasons young people have trouble sleeping. And while the study establishes a link between social media usage and sleeping patterns, researchers could not say whether people were driven to use social media more often because they couldn’t sleep, or slept poorly because they spent too much time on social media.

“It may also be that both of these hypotheses are true,” the study’s authors noted. “Difficulty sleeping may lead to increased use of [social media], which may in turn lead to more problems sleeping.”

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