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Social Media Is Keeping Young Adults Awake

This teenager will spend the night at a sleep disorder center in Kansas City, Missouri. She is among a growing number of teens suffering from sleep disorders. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, 2004)
This teenager will spend the night at a sleep disorder center in Kansas City, Missouri. She is among a growing number of teens suffering from sleep disorders. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, 2004)
Social Media Is Keeping Young Adults Awake
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

A new study has found that social media could be affecting the sleep of young adults.

The study is a project of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.

They found that young people who often use social media are more likely to suffer from sleep disorders than those who use social media less.

The researchers say doctors should ask young adults about their use of social media when treating sleep issues.

“This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep,” said Jessica C. Levenson. She is a postdoctoral researcher in the university’s Department of Psychiatry. She was the lead author of a report on the study.

The researchers set out to examine the connection between social media use and sleep among young adults. Levenson noted that these young adults are possibly the first “generation to grow up with social media.”

The researchers wanted to find out how often young people used social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapshot, Credit and Tumbler. For the study, they gave questionnaires to nearly 1,800 adults, aged 19 to 32.

On average, members of the study group used social media sites one hour a day. They also "visited various social media accounts 30 times per week."

Thirty percent of the study’s participants reported having serious problems with sleeping. Those people who used social media a lot were three times more likely to have a sleep disorder. And those who spent the most time on social media were two times as likely to suffer from sleep disturbances.

Frequent checking is big part of the problem

Levenson said the number of times a person visits social media is a better predictor of sleep problems than overall time spent on social media. If this is true, she adds, then practices that stop such behaviors may be most effective.

Researchers say social media can influence sleep patterns in a number of ways.

  • People can lose sleep by staying up too late looking at social media.
  • Sensitive issues argued about on social media can cause "emotional, cognitive or physiological” excitement.
  • Using an electronic device can interfere with a body’s natural sleep rhythms because of the light coming from cell phones or computer screens.

The researchers note that in some cases, young adults who have a hard time sleeping may use social media to help them fall asleep.

"It also may be that both of these hypotheses are true," says Brian A. Primack. He is director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health. He is also the study's senior author.

Primack says “difficulty sleeping may lead to increased use of social media, which may in turn lead to more sleeping problems. This cycle may be particularly problematic with social media. Many forms of social media involve interactive screen time that is stimulating and rewarding and, for those reasons, can keep you awake."

Researchers published their findings in the journal Preventative Medicine.

I’m Anna Matteo.


Words in This Story

author – n. a person who has written something, especially someone who has written a book or who writes many books

disturbance – n. something that stops you from working or sleeping

questionnaire – n. written questions that are given to people in order to collect facts or opinions about something

predictor – n. predicting on the basis of observation, experience, or scientific reason

hypotheses – n. an idea or theory that is not proven but that leads to further study or discussion

cycle – n. a set of events or actions that happen again and again in the same order

interactive – adj. involving the actions or input of a user

stimulating – adj. to make (a person) excited or interested in something

rewarding – adj. giving you a good feeling that you have done something valuable or important

participant – n. a person who is involved in an activity or event; a person who takes part in an activity or event

pattern – n. the repetition of something