Extensive use of social media has an effect on insomnia and depression, according to a research paper published at Nottingham University. The paper was aimed at finding two things: “whether the use of social media has a negative impact on the mental well being of the users and whether there is a link between the extent of the usage and the user’s mental state.”
Before we move further, here’s some background.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is characterized by inability to sleep or habitual sleeplessness. It can last for a few days or week (in the time of exams) or for months or years. Chronic insomnia is caused by environmental changes, unhealthy habits and needs medical intervention. It can also lead to major depression.
Here are the top takeaways from the research paper:
- Affects concentration
Almost all of the the social media websites run round the clock and are available at the click of a button. The access has become even easier with the advent of apps and smartphones. The paper says,
Using a mobile phone in bed for messaging has been proven to increase chances of struggling to sleep- it takes longer for the brain to relax after concentrating on messaging. The most severe impacts are occurring when users are combining the use of social media with other factors such as emotional, psychological, environmental, biological, and genetic factors. People with these characteristics should restrict their use of social media, in particular in the last hour before going to bed.
- ‘We’ve become too relaxed’
The easy access has meant that people need not venture out of their homes to ‘socialize or connect with their friends’. The paper contends that this has made people ‘too relaxed’ and has created difficulty in initiating sleep at night.
- We lose almost 1.5 hours
A survey conducted by Travelodge in 2013 showed that 70% of the people send a tweet each night and 20% catch up on their friends or celebrities. People spend about 16 minutes on social media sites and add another hour for the brain to relax and the sleep to kick in — that takes away about one-and-a-half hours of sleep away.
- Bright lights
Exposure to bright lights from device’s screen “delays the brain and body’s ability to get to sleep”, the paper says. The brain, which is constantly made to engage in some kind of activity, doesn’t relax enough and as a result people aren’t sleeping early. Looking at lit screens is likely to increase the chances of insomnia as bright light exposes the brain to certain chemicals which delay the onset of sleep.
- Affects long-term memory
Sleeping for less number of hours also affect long-term memory. The paper quotes Dr. Hastings, an expert in sleep patterns, as saying,
….the brain simply engages in a different activity where it stores memories and gets rid of information that’s not needed. If people aren’t getting enough sleep each night, their long term memory is most definitely being affected and using social networking sites and technology before they go to bed is worsening this.
- Checking messages
Do you wake up in the middle of the night to check messages? You are not alone! The paper says fifty per cent of the people who keep their phones next to the bed wake up in the middle of the night to check their messages, and that leads to sleep deprivation.
- Less productivity
People who use technology to fall asleep are less likely to have a sound sleep involving REM (rapid eye movement), a phase of sleep where brain activity is at its highest. And lack of proper sleep can also affect your productivity.
483 women were surveyed in their first college year and it was found they were spending 12 hours a day texting, using social media and listening to music online e.g. on YouTube. Women using over 12 hours were more likely to have worse grades, and social networking is associated with bad academic performance