Commentary

Sleep Loss In Teens Linked To Social Media

Sleep loss in teenagers is correlated with frequent social media use, according to a new study by researchers in the UK, titled “Sleepless in school? The social dimensions of young people’s bedtime rest and routines” published in the Journal of Youth Studies.

Researchers at the Wales Institute for Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods surveyed over 900 students, ages 12-15 years old, about their social media usage and sleep patterns, including when they go to bed, when they wake up, and how often they check social media during the night.

One-fifth of the respondents said they “almost always” wake up during the night and log on to social media. No surprise, these students were roughly three times as likely to say they are “constantly” tired at school as peers who don’t check social media at night.

The survey also revealed that girls in this age group are significantly more likely than boys to wake up and use social media during the night.

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Additionally, respondents who reported feeling tired all the time in school were also more likely to describe themselves as less happy, on average, than students who weren’t tired.

The British study adds to a growing body of evidence linking social media to sleep disruption in young people.

Last year, I wrote about a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who surveyed 1,788 U.S. adults ages 19-32 about their social media use and sleep habits. Overall, around 30% of them indicated they experience a great deal of sleep disturbance.

However, separating the respondents into heavy social media users and light users, respondents who checked social media more throughout the week were three times as likely as those who checked it less frequently to experience major sleep disturbances.

As always, it should be noted that correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation. A number of alternative explanations are possible. For example, teens who wake up frequently during the night may simply use social media in order to pass the time. In previous generations, they might have chosen to watch TV or listen to music.
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