Excessive Facebook Checking Linked With Sleep Problems

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Facebook Linked With Sleep DisordersFacebook was launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and his roommates from Harvard College, and since then it has become one of the most popular social media websites in the world. It has helped millions of people connect, and it has even helped others grow businesses.

That said, if you find yourself on Facebook dozens of times daily, it may be a sign you’re lacking sleep, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). The research team found that not getting enough sleep leads to frequent online browsing, especially on Facebook.

“When you get less sleep, you’re more prone to distraction,” explained lead researchers and UCI informatics professor Gloria Mark. “If you’re being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It’s lightweight, it’s easy, and you’re tired.”

Sleep deprivation can lead to loss of productivity, and potential accidents happening at work or while driving. Depriving yourself of sleep is also thought to lead to higher risk of stroke, heart disease, hypertension, depression, moodiness, colds and flus, and memory problems.

Although studies have looked at how information technology affects sleep, this study examines how the duration of sleep influences your time spent on IT/social media platforms like Facebook. For the study, the researchers compiled data from 76 UCI undergraduates for a seven-day period in the spring of 2014. The students had their smartphones and computers equipped with a software that logged and recorded when they switched applications, and when they texted or spoke on the phone.

The students also filled out a general questionnaire, and sat for an interview at the end of the study. Throughout the week, the researchers asked the participants about their mood, level of engagement in their work, and perceived difficulty in their work. The researchers found a link between a chronic lack of sleep, a worsened mood, and a greater reliance on Facebook browsing. They also found that less sleep is linked with frequent attention shifts among computer screens. This suggests that people become more distracted when sleep deprived.

The general recommendation for adults aged 18 to 64 is seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

The study is not the only one to connect excessive social media use with sleep problems. For instance, a recent study published online and scheduled for the April 2016 edition of the journal Preventive Medicine suggests that young adults who spend a lot of time on social media throughout the day or week have a greater risk of sleep disturbances than those who use social media less often.

The study sampled 1,788 American adults between the ages 19 to 32, and used questionnaires to determine social media use and establish a measurement of sleep disturbances. In the study, the researchers noted that the bright light from social-media-accessing devices (such as a smartphone) may disturb sleep by disrupting circadian rhythms. Having these devices in the bedroom at night is a major red flag. Studies have linked the overuse of cellphones and smartphones with sleep disturbances, stress, and depression. Evidence also suggests that exposure to electromagnetic field (EMF) frequencies emitted from electronic devices like cellphones will increase oxidative stress and sleep disturbances by reducing melatonin, the body’s sleep-promoting hormone.

To help improve sleep patterns, it’s best to leave all electronic devices outside the bedroom, especially smartphones with social media apps.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Levenson, J.C., et al., “The association between social media use and sleep disturbance among young adults,” Preventive Medicine, 2016, 85: 36, doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.01.001.

Thomée, S., et al., “Mobile phone use and stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression among young adults—a prospective cohort study,” BMC Public Health, 2011; 11: 66, doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-66.
El-Helaly, M., et al., “Oxidative stress, melatonin level, and sleep insufficiency among electronic equipment repairers,” Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 2010; 14(3): 66-70, doi: 10.4103/0019-5278.75692.