There are plenty of reasons why social media could go down as one of the greatest innovations of the 21st century. Yet according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a study set to be published this April, Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms could literally be killing your sleep patterns, too.
“Young adults who spend a lot of time on social media during the day or check it frequently throughout the week are more likely to suffer sleep disturbances than their peers who use social media less,” a statement from the school’s press release reads.
For the study, Dr. Jessica C. Levenson, a postdoctoral researcher at the university’s Department of Psychiatry and the study’s lead author, worked with her team to analyze 1,788 U.S. adults ages 19 through 32, using questionnaires to determine social media use and an established measurement system to assess sleep disturbances.
“This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep,” Levenson said. “And it uniquely examines the association between social media use and sleep among young adults who are, arguably, the first generation to grow up with social media.”
This could potentially be a big problem that will need to be addressed, considering about 40% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of nightly sleep currently. Social media check-ins will increasingly be as much a part of bedtime routines as putting footed pajamas on babies.
The study found that those who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week were three times more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances, compared with those who checked least frequently. Participants who spent the most total time on social media throughout the course of a day had twice the risk of sleep disturbance, compared to those who spent less time on it overall.
Overall, the average participant was on social media for 61 minutes a day visiting their various social media accounts 30 times every week. All of the most popular platforms at the time the study was conducted in 2014 (such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube) were accounted for. In total, 30% of the study’s participants suffered from high levels of sleep disturbance.
“A comfortable bed, a good pillow and the right pajamas are major components to a restful night sleep,” said John Fitzpatrick, CEO, Big Feet Pajama Co. “We are much less likely to experience FOMO and the urge to constantly check a device if we are not disturbed by a need to fluff, adjust or untangle.”
There’s also the possibility that the problem could be a somewhat chicken-and-egg situation.
Dr. Brian Primack, assistant vice chancellor for health and society at the University of Pittsburgh’s Schools of the Health Sciences and also director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health believes there’s probably a combination of factors at play.
“Difficulty sleeping may lead to increased use of social media, which may in turn lead to more problems sleeping,” Primack said. “This cycle may be particularly problematic with social media because many forms involve interactive screen time that is stimulating and rewarding and, therefore, potentially detrimental to sleep.”