Is Social Media Harming Your Sleep?

Sleep is probably one of the most important things we do everyday. Sleep allows us to recharge. It's vital for our recovery, well-being, mental acuity and our immune system. 

In fact, the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School demonstrated that poor sleep is correlated with diabetes, heart disease, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, accident and an inability to learn. These issues are all on the rise, particularly in developed countries - which is perhaps counter intuitive considering the advancements in health care and increasing standard of living being enjoyed by most members of the developed world. 


One possible contributing element is the fact that while the demands of everyday life are increasing, we are not increasing our sleep to accommodate for this - in many developed nations, average duration of sleep is actually decreasing. IPG Media Brands conducted a survey of 3,000 Canadians, and found that one in four wake up feeling so unenergised and lethargic that they call in sick to catch up on sleep. Perhaps now more than ever before, we need to learn to prioritise sleep; to recharge. 

We’re expected to work longer hours, exceed larger and more ambitious KPIs every year, while maintaining a social life that can bring as much stress as it does relief. In 2015,  almost 70% of people in the developed world owned a smartphone - and the cluttered, highly networked digital world means we are always contactable and our lives are always on show; this can be both emotionally and mentally draining. Our increased proximity to, and dependency on, our technology, and the attachment to social media that it grants us, may be disrupting our sleep as much as our increased work demands. 


1,788 adults between the ages 19-32 were monitored by researchers for the amount of time they spent on social media daily, and the number of times they visited social media sites over the course of a week. 

Those who spent the most time on social media daily (top 25%) exhibited nearly two times the risk of sleep disruption than those in the lowest quartile.

Likewise, those who visited the most social media sites per week (top 25%) showed nearly three times the risk of sleep disturbance as those in the lowest 25 percent.

These results show a correlation between poor sleep and social media usage, but they do not address what is driving the link between high levels of social media usage and poor quality sleep.

However, Dr. Jessica Levenson, a clinical psychologist and researcher at the University of Pittsburgh poses some possible answers, remarking that “social media could affect sleep because of the light emitted from the screen, because the content is emotionally engaging or because people just get caught up doing it and go to bed later – or it could be a combination of all three.”

Blue light is the type of light emitted from screens, and also the type of light we are exposed to at dawn. It’s basically the light which tells us the day has arrived and that it’s time to wake up. 

I bet that you have also spent a few hours late at night stressing and fretting about:

a) Something that you saw on Facebook or instagram

b) Something someone texted you 

c) Something you messaged/posted 

d) Someone who hasn’t replied to you yet

e) All of the above

Most people I know are unable to go to sleep without being certain that their phone is by their bed. It seems as though society has ordered its affairs in such a way as to make it a social expectation that we are always contactable; always ‘connected’. It’s almost an implicit sin these days to be offline - not to have your finger ‘on the pulse’.

So, how can you make sure that you don't turn into a husk of a human whose only redeeming feature is a very active online presence?

Dr Michael J. Breus has these recommendations, which you can find on his website

• Charge your mobile devices out of the bedroom (this way you cant hear it buzz in the middle of the night).

• Stop social media use at least an hour before bedtime (this can be a tough one, try 30 minutes at first, then make it a little longer). 

• Replace this time, with light reading (not on an electronic device), simple stretches, meditation or deep breathing. 

• Don’t check Social Media in the middle of the night when you may wake to use the restroom or move to get more comfortable.

Do you have any coping strategies? Share the love below :)