Digital sunset: Social media linked to anxiety, poor sleep in teens

Digital sunset: Social media linked to anxiety, poor sleep in teens

Social media has become an integral part of the lives of younger generation in the U.S., particularly adolescents. A study conducted by Pew Research Center found 92 percent of the teens staying online daily, with 24 percent admitting they went online “almost constantly.”

The effect of social media networking on the health of teens isn’t well understood. Little research has been done on the subject. However, the relationship between lack of sleep and health is well-known, and a study conducted at the University of Glasgow in Scotland sees a troubling link between teens, social media, anxiety and a lack of sleep.

The stress of always being on

In the study, researchers asked 460 teenagers at a Scottish secondary school about their social media habits. The results showed that students as young as 11 were using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter constantly, often into the early hours of the morning. Some even used several devices, like a phone and a tablet to view two sites at once.

The students were also given a questionnaire about anxiety, depression, self-esteem and sleep quality. Early analysis of the data received showed that poorer sleep quality, higher levels of anxiety and depression and lower self-esteem was related to social media use. Those students who reported having a higher emotional investment in social media showed similar results.

Social media’s hold can be powerful enough to disrupt sleep. A survey conducted by the Cardiff University in Wales reported one in five of the teens studied said they “almost always” woke up during the night to post messages or look at social media sites. Those teens reported lower levels of happiness than those who slept through the night.

All this stress and anxiety have outcomes. A study commissioned by the United Kingdom’s National Citizens Service found that nine out of 10 teenage girls reported having experienced stress in the past year, and seven in 10 cases led to symptoms of stress disorders.

Digital sunset

Studies have shown that light from device screens can disrupt sleep rhythms. A 2014 study at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found participants who used iPads for four hours before bedtime had more sleep difficulties than those who did not. Heather Cleland Woods, M.D., one of the authors of the University of Glasgow report, suggested the idea of a “digital sunset” where we follow the sun’s example of setting a few hours before bed by doing the same with our devices.

Sleep problems often go hand in hand with anxiety disorders, and some anxiety disorders need professional treatment. The Anxiety Treatment Centers of California is an excellent resource to find help from a medical professional. Call us at 855-972-9459 any time or via live chat to get started.

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