Suffering from sleep disturbances? You may be using social media too much.

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that young adults who spend lots of their time on social media are more prone to suffer from sleep problems than their peers whose usage is less.

Study subjects who said that they most frequently look at their social media accounts throughout the week had three times more risk of developing sleep problems. Meanwhile, those who spend most of their time on social media throughout the day are twice as likely to be at risk of sleep disturbances.

"This may indicate that frequency of social media visits is a better predictor of sleep difficulty than overall time spent on social media," says lead author Dr. Jessica C. Levenson. If this is true, then she suggests that measures against obsessive checking of social media accounts may be the most effective.

Levenson says the study is among the first investigations that delved into the role of social media on sleep. Aside from that, it uniquely assesses the relationship between the use of social media and sleep in young adults, who are actually the first generation to grow up with social media.

To investigate, Levenson and colleagues surveyed 1,788 American adults aged 19 to 32. They used the questionnaires to identify the participants' use of social media apps such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

The researchers used an established measurement system to determine sleep disturbances.

The results of the analysis show that the subjects use social media for 61 minutes daily on the average. The frequency of usage was 30 times per week.

Sleep disturbances were noted in 30 percent of the participants.

Senior author Dr. Brian A. Primack says more research is warranted to know which contributes to which. He added that it is also possible that both social media and sleep disturbances contribute to the occurrence of one another.

For example, social media may disturb sleep when an individual stays late at night to post photos, update statuses, engage in chat messages which may heighten emotional, cognitive and physiological states. Bright light emitted by the devices may also disrupt sleep cycles.

Sleep problems may also influence an individual to use social media as this is a pleasurable and engaging way to pass time when it is difficult to sleep.

The research also suggests that clinicians should include social media use when assessing patients with sleep problems.

The study was published online in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Photo: Pabak Sarkar | Flickr 

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