Social media has become an intrinsic part of modern life, for better or worse…
June 30th marks Social Media Day – a time to scroll, snap and share our way through our favourite social media platform – be it Instagram, TikTok, Facebook or something else entirely. However, it’s also a good time to take a more critical eye to social media, exploring the impact that these platforms are having on our sleep health and wellbeing overall.
Because despite the short term enjoyment social media can bring, it’s not all good news when it comes to the long term impact. Let’s take a closer look at how social media can impact your sleep, and what you can do to improve your sleep quality while still enjoying your favourite platforms.
How does social media impact your sleep?
Social media has become a staple of modern life, especially for young people. Research from the Sleep Foundation has found that around 95% of adolescents have access to a smartphone and almost half of them (45%) admit to being online “almost constantly”. And while this can spark conversation, creativity and communication, too much time on social media can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Numerous studies have shown that the constant use of social media can result in a higher risk of mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. What’s more, a 2019 study published in Sleep Medicine found that the more time young people spend engaging in screen-based activities – such as using social media and surfing the web – the more trouble they had falling asleep and the less sleep they got during the night.
This can create a vicious cycle in terms of mental health, as the anxiety stirred by social media can make it difficult to sleep, which in turn can make you more vulnerable to stress, anxiety and other mental health concerns.
What’s more, screen time in the evening can further impact your sleep due to the overexposure to ‘blue light’ – the specific kind of light emitted by digital screens. This can inhibit your brain’s natural release of melatonin, which is an essential hormone for relaxation and sleep.
What can you do to lessen the damage?
When it comes to lessening the impact of social media on your health, it’s all about moderation. Giving yourself limits on your screen time can work wonders in terms of improving your mental health and making you feel ready for sleep come bedtime. This is something you can do yourself, or even set up with your phone, as many modern smartphones come with the option to set time limits on apps.
You should also be careful about when you’re using social media, and who you’re following. Ask yourself whether the accounts you follow make you feel good about yourself, or whether they might be triggering negative emotions. Filling your feed with jet-setting influencers with seemingly perfect lives can bring about feelings of inferiority and anxiety, so consider swapping them for accounts that make you laugh or inspire you to engage in hobbies.
Give yourself a strict curfew when it comes to social media usage – ideally at least an hour before you go to bed. Put the phone down and opt instead for some pre-bedtime reading or meditation to help you wind down. Any updates can wait until the morning.