3+ hours daily social media use linked to poor sleep patterns in UK teens

October 22, 2019

Spending three or more hours a day on social media is associated with poor sleep patterns, such as falling asleep after 11 pm on school nights and waking during the night, among UK teens, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

The findings "provide rigorous and meaningful evidence to inform practice and policy to support healthy adolescent sleep and social media use," say the researchers.

There is growing concern about the possible impact of screen time, and specifically social media use, on the mental health and wellbeing of young people. But there is little clear evidence to inform policy and clinical practice in this area.

To address this knowledge gap, the researchers set out to generate a typical profile of social media use and sleep patterns among UK teens.

They analysed data for 11,872 adolescents (aged 13-15) from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. This has been tracking the health of a large nationally representative sample of people born between 2000 and 2002.

Participants reported how much time they spent on social media to include social networking or messaging sites or Apps, such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp on a typical weekday.

They also reported typical sleep habits, including what time they fell asleep and woke up on both school days and free days; how long it took them to fall asleep; and any difficulties they had falling back asleep after waking during the night.

Just over a third (33.7%) of the teens said they spent less than 1 hour a day on social media so were classed as low users, while just under a third (31.6%) said they spent 1 to 3 hours a day on it, and were classed as average users.

Of the remainder, just under 14% were high users (3 to 5 hours a day) and around one in five (just under 21%) were very high users (more than 5 hours a day).

After taking account of family background as well as physical and psychological health, the researchers found that heavier social media use was generally associated with poorer sleep patterns.

Very high social media users were roughly 70% more likely to fall asleep after 11 pm on school days and after midnight on free days than were average users.

Both high and very high social media users were also more likely to say they woke later (after 8 am) on school days than average users, and very high users were more likely to say they had trouble getting back to sleep after waking during the night.

But low social media users were least likely to fall asleep late and wake up late, lending weight to the idea that social media displaces sleep. This is a particular concern on school days, as late bedtimes then "predict poorer academic and emotional outcomes," note the authors.

Girls tended to spend more time on social media than boys and reported poorer sleep quality.

This is an observational study, and as such, can't establish cause. What's more, measures were based on self-report and duration of social media use only, rather than content or context, so may not have been completely accurate.

The researchers also acknowledge that heavy use of social media and difficulties falling asleep may reflect underlying health issues, as teens with poorer wellbeing may spend more time on social media and also experience sleep problems.

Nevertheless, they point out that this is a large, nationally representative study, which took account of a wide range of influential factors, and as such, "provides robust evidence on associations between social media use and sleep outcomes."

Future research should aim to build "a more nuanced, holistic understanding of adolescent social media use and sleep," they say.

And they call for approaches that help young people "to balance online social interactions with an appropriate sleep schedule that allows sufficient sleep on school nights, with benefits for health and educational outcomes."
Peer reviewed? Yes
Type of evidence: Observational
Subjects: UK adolescents


Related Social Media Articles from Brightsurf:

it's not if, but how people use social media that impacts their well-being
New research from UBC Okanagan indicates what's most important for overall happiness is how a person uses social media.

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.

How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.

Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.

Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.

How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Read More: Social Media News and Social Media Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.