April 04, 2018 2 min read

Do you typically browse your favorite social media sites just before you hit the pillow? Or maybe you keep your phone close in case you receive a late night text?You’re not alone.

Many of us spend a significant amount of time on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or others. However, research clearly shows that social media use is negatively impacting our sleep.

New research from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine which looked at data on more than 1,700 U.S. adults ages 19 through 32 found the more time young adults spend using social media, the more problems they have getting to sleep.

Other research studies show similar effects. The more time a person uses social media, the higher their odds are of not getting enough sleep. Social media use for just one hour in a day has a negative impact in several ways including reducing sleep duration and disrupting sleep patterns.

The link between social media use and sleep problems is likely due to multiple interrelating factors including staying up late to post, using social media to pass time rather than sleeping, and being exposed to blue light.

The interactive nature of using social media promotes overstimulation and prevents the quiet relaxation conducive to falling asleep. The psychological aspects of social media use also interfere with sleep since it’s often emotionally engaging and provides a continuous stream of new things to look at. People can quickly get hooked on refreshing their news feeds over and over and easily end up going to bed much later than planned.

Phones and tablets emit blue light that contributes to overstimulation that undermines the unwinding process before sleep. Unfortunately, the special screens that claim to reduce this effect are not an effective solution to the problem.

Blue light essentially keeps you feeling awake and tricks your brain into thinking when you really should be sleeping. The blue light that LED screens give off can reduce or prevent the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells our brain it's time for sleeping.

This type of light also interferes with your circadian rhythm, the natural cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, and eat, among many other critical physiological processes. Even exposure to dim blue light at nighttime when you should be sleeping, can interfere with circadian rhythm.

Make a point of turning off your devices two hours before bedtime to help your mind and body get into sleep mode. If you have trouble putting down your technology, try dimming the backlight of your devices as you prepare to power off. An easy way to resist the temptation to look at social media on your device while you are in bed is to simply place it out of reach and not take it to bed with you in the first place.

If you feel social media use might be interfering with your sleep, mindfully consider how much time you’re spending on it. Maybe even take some time to unplug from it for a while. Your sleep cycle will thank you for it.

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