As we’ve noted in other articles, more than one-quarter of the U.S. population report not getting enough sleep and 10% have insomnia according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We have written about technology to improve sleep, such as the Sleep Shepard Blue brain wave tracker, Hush Technology’s Smart Earplugs, and Acoustic Sheep’s SleepPhones. While we’ve covered ways technology can help with sleep issues, we’ve not written about a common means by which technology may be contributing to this problem, making sleep deprivation worse for some patients.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Psychiatry Department have found that social media use among young adults may cause sleep deprivation, and that the longer and more often people stay on social media, the greater the effect on sleep appears to be.
In their 2014 study of 1,788 U.S. adults ages 19 through 32, 30 percent had significant sleep disturbance and on average the participants checked social media accounts 30 times per week and for a total of 61 minutes a day. Frequency of checking accounts had a greater effect on sleep than the amount of time spent on social media, but in both cases the high users had the most issues. Those who checked their social media accounts most often had three times more sleep problems than those who checked least often and those who spent the most time with social media had two times the disturbance than those who spent the least time. So a cautious preliminary indication is that social media may be a factor with sleep deprivation.
There are many questions still to be answered and this is but one study. Replicated studies that produce similar results and further studies relying measures other than questionnaires are needed before making a definitive statement. It could be, for example, that because when people can’t sleep, they hop on social media. One thing we do know, however, is that while social media may be an issue with sleep sufficiency, there are other technologies available to help.