Better sleep for teens can be achieved through different uses of social media

Social media use has a huge impact on people, for better or for worse. Recently dr. Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general, issued a recommendation on teenagers and social media use, following a report by the American Psychological Association. Now, research is suggesting how different approaches to social media use among teens can help improve sleep patterns.

The work focused on the experiences of 10,280 children between the ages of 10 and 14 who participated in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. They found that 15.5 percent of children had trouble falling or staying asleep for at least several days in the past two weeks.

The study also found that 16.9 percent said they had been awakened by phone calls, text messages, or emails while they were asleep at least once in the past week. And one in five picked up their phone or other device after waking up in the night. Of concern, owning a television or internet-connected device resulted in over a quarter (27 percent) of children having trouble falling asleep or dreamland.

“Adolescents may be hypervigilant to the sounds of phone notifications and wake up immediately to the sound of their phone,” said lead author Dr. Jason Nagata, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, in a statement.

The research suggests some practical and obvious approaches to improving sleep outcomes — which would likely help kids and adults alike. For example, less screen time just before bed, whether on social media, watching TV, or playing video games, as well as not looking at the phone when waking up in the middle of the night, was associated with a 34 percent higher risk of insomnia.

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“Adequate sleep is crucial for teenagers as it helps the body and mind grow and develop properly,” explains Nagata. “Our research found that keeping screens outside of the bedroom, turning off device notifications, and avoiding social media use in bed is associated with better sleep in adolescents. If you wake up at night, don’t check your phone or social media.”

Again, this is advice that not only teenagers but also adults can take to heart. However, IFLScience isn’t sure there’s even a millennial whose phone has the ringer on.

“Given the social pressures and the physical, psychological, and emotional changes that are occurring, the development of puberty is a challenging time for many,” added co-author Dr. Kyle T. Ganson, assistant professor at the Factor-Inwentash School of Social Work at the University of Toronto. “It is crucial for parents to understand and be present at the centrality of social media and smartphones in this developmental process.”

The study was published in Sleep Health.