Social media and screen time may be detrimental to sleep quality, as ‘blue light,’ emitted from screens, can affect the sleep-wake cycle. A group of researchers set out to investigate whether adolescents suffer from sleep loss due to increased social media use.
Over 450 teenagers (11-17 yrs) participated in this study. The teenagers were asked how often they used social media, both during the day and at night, and how pressured they felt to use social media. They also provided information about their self-esteem, anxiety levels, and depression. Finally, sleep quality of these individuals was tested. The research team was interested in whether social media use affected sleep quality.
Regrettably, higher social media use was associated with lower self-esteem, higher anxiety, and higher depression in the teenagers. High social media use was also related to lower sleep quality.
According to one of the researchers, “those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected,” which might not be surprising. "Since adolescence is a vulnerable period for development of long-term issues, it is essential that we understand how adolescents’ social media use relates to factors like sleep quality and the risk of depression.”
Although ‘directionality’ between these factors was not tested, multiple pathways between social media use, self-esteem/depression/anxiety, and sleep loss can be hypothesized. For example, if social media and screen time lead to poorer self-esteem/depression/anxiety levels, sleep can be affected by poor mental health quality. On the other hand, if screen time and social media reduce sleep, the lack of sleep can contribute to the mental deficits (self-esteem/depression/anxiety). Although these pathways were not specifically tested, it is likely that both are at play. Thus, limiting social media and screen time in this population seems crucial.
If you have a child or teenager at home, discourage excessive screen time or social media use, especially at night. Teach your child about the importance of sleep so that they may thrive socially and physically.