Although you might love live-chatting with Auntie Jean about Eastenders or keeping up with your favourite celebrity’s stories, we all know that social media isn’t all sunshine and roses. For some of us, social media can have a negative impact, with online bullying and image pressures widely blamed for poor mental health, particularly amongst younger people ( 1). But it may not be the exposure to hate speech or the lack of privacy that concerns parents the most when it comes to social media use. In a recent study, 58% of parents surveyed cited a lack of sleep as their number one concern (2).
If you’ve ever found yourself scrolling into the early hours you know just what those mums and dads are talking about. So how do you know if social media is having a negative impact on your snoozing? And how can you make sure that you and your family are getting plenty of good, Zuckerberg-free sleep (we apologise for that disturbing mental image)?
Is social media bad for our health?
Whether it’s keeping up to date with family through Facebook, posting favourite photos on Instagram or going viral on TikTok, most of us are connected to social media in one way or another. But is that twice, thrice or ten-time daily scroll doing us damage?
Social media, phones and physical health
With music, books, work and a whole encyclopaedia of knowledge, not to mention all of our friends, right there in our palms, it’s little wonder that we’re perennially glued to our smartphones. Unfortunately, phone usage is linked to a variety of potential health issues:
- Tech Neck: doing damage to your spine, looking down at your phone while you keep up to date with the WhatsApp gang puts a whole lotta pressure on the tendons, muscles and ligaments in your neck. The results? Neck pain, headaches and poor posture (3).
- Phone Germs: according to a study carried out by the University of Arizona, your phone could carry up to ten times more bacteria than a toilet seat (4). And while most of the bugs that your mobile phone is exposed to everyday are harmless there is, experts say, a small risk of cross-contamination with more serious strains, like streptococcus, MRSA and even E. Coli. Antibacterial wipe anyone?
- Blue Light Eye Damage: as if staring into a tiny box for hours isn’t enough to make you squint, scientists also think that the blue light emitted by your mobile could be contributing to macular degeneration (5). Less scary but much more common is the eye strain that can be caused by staring at a screen for too long (6). Symptoms include headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision and difficulty focusing.
- Smartphone Fingers and Thumbs: digits feeling stiff and sore? Experiencing numbness in a fingertip or joint clicking? It could all be down to smartphone use (7). Sometimes called trigger thumb or trigger finger, tendinitis is the result of wear and tear on the tendons in your hands caused by the repetitive small movements made when typing out messages on a tiny phone screen. Most common in a thumb or first finger, these symptoms can be felt in the pinky too if it’s used as a phone rest.
The effect of social media on sleep: is there a link?
When it comes to the impact of social media on sleep we’re sorry to say that the news just gets worse for you Instagram junkies. Not only is your thumb throbbing, your neck cricked and your beloved screen smeared with nasty germs but you’re probably not sleeping too great either…
Blue light from our phones can interrupt sleep
That blue light emitted by our mobile phones (not to mention laptops, tablets and e-readers) doesn’t just have the potential to damage our eyes, it could also be keeping us from getting a good night’s sleep. Shown to impact our circadian rhythm more than any other light colour (8), exposure to blue light (or white light, which contains blue light), can make it hard for us to fall asleep at night. In addition, when blue light interacts with your melatonin, the hormone that controls the circadian rhythm, it can also tell your body that it needs to wake up bright and early too, often far earlier than you’d like.
Constant notifications can disturb your slumber
Do you keep your mobile phone by your bed at night? Research tells us that 68% of teens and 74% of adults keep their phone close by while they sleep. In addition, around a quarter of grown ups will wake at night to check something other than the time ( 9).It’s no surprise then that so many of us are suffering a lack of sleep because of social media notifications binging and chirping from dusk ‘til dawn. Even if your phone is kept on silent overnight, there’s still a chance that the light from home screen notifications could be interrupting those sweet dreams.
Social media FOMO can keep us up at night
We all know how tough it can be to press that off button when we’re in the middle of a group text marathon, our favourite influencer is going live or Twitter (sorry, X) is on fire over the latest scandal. Even when our eyes are droopingwe can’t resist one last quick scroll, a couple of final memes to see us through ‘til morning. Why? Because social media FOMO is a real thing. And, according to research, those of us with FOMO are more likely to pick up our phones (it’s just a quick check in!) after just fifteen minutes of trying to get off to sleep ( 10).
Social media and wellbeing: the good and the bad
You might be suffering from unhealthy sleep patterns due to social media but you know what else can keep you up at night? Poor mental wellbeing. And we all know that social media gets a pretty bad rap when it comes to our mental health. But why is social media bad for us? And are there any upsides?
Social media and social pressure
We all know, really, that what we see on social media isn’t real. Those picture perfect influencers are using filters and fillers aplenty. And as for your friends, they’re only posting the great bits of their holiday, not the tantrum their kid had in the airport or that dodgy meal that had them locked in the loo for four days straight. Yet somehow, we’re still more worried than ever by the image others have of us, both people we know and complete strangers who we’ll never meet. Studies even show that social media sites like Facebook can make us downright sad, with those who choose to delete their profile reporting improved life satisfaction ( 11).
Social media, trolls and bullying
If you’ve ever received an anonymous DM threat or engaged in an online slanging match you’ll know that social media can be a dark, dark place. This is especially true for young people with nearly a quarter of school pupils having experienced online bullying ( 12). Not only can online bullying and trolling keep us awake with worry, it can impact our day-to-day lives too, leading to anxiety and depression. Likewise, those online squabbles can play on our minds, making us feel stressed and unhappy. In fact such can be the negative effects of life on social media that an increasing number of Gen Z users are opting to take a break from platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and TikTok (13).
Social media for good
It’s not all bad news when it comes to social media though. For many people, the internet is a source of good, giving us platforms to discuss the things we love, learn from experts and communicate and connect with like-minded people from every corner of the Earth. Social media allows those who are isolated – the elderly, housebound or chronically shy – to enjoy real time social interaction and it’s a force for good when it comes to raising awareness and funds for great causes too. The social media boom has also proved excellent news for women in work too, with influencing now recognised as one of the very few careers in which women out-earn men, and by more than a third ( 14). Take that banking CEOs!
Top Tips for Healthy Social Media Use
Ready to put down your phone and give up social media for good? We didn’t think so and that’s okay. With some discipline and self-care it’s entirely possible to have a healthy relationship with your mobile phone. Here are just a few of our favourite tips with a special focus on sleep and social media:
- Take a long break from social media: comparison getting you down? If social media is only bringing bad news it may be time to take a break. Whether it’s a couple of days, a week, a month or for good, taking a social media hiatus has been seen to have a good effect on mental health (15) and could just help you sleep better at night too.
- Limit your social media time: if insomnia and social media is a concern for you it’s probably a good idea to set yourself some time limits. Self control not your strong suit? Your phone probably has built-in tools to help with this and apps like Off The Grid and App Detox could prove helpful if you need an extra push. Instagram has just announced it’s launching a new feature called “nighttime nudges”. These will help parents ensure that they are limiting the amount of time teens spend on social media to. And so, if your teen has spent more than 10 minutes on Instagram, be it in Reels or DMs and it’s late at night, you’ll get a nudge to let you know.
- Keep your phone out of the bedroom…: do you really, really need to have your phone within arm’s reach? If not, why not charge it in the kitchen or living room overnight? Without those notifications keeping you awake you’ll almost certainly sleep better. And we’re positive you’ll be far less tempted by midnight scrolling if you have to take a long journey downstairs to log on.
- …Or at least switch off notifications: if your phone has to be nearby, turning off notifications completely can make it easier for you to resist after dark social media visits. Most mobile phones have an emergency option that will ensure you’re alerted by calls or text messages from selected numbers or if the same number attempts to call you more than once.
- Use blue light filtering: your phone probably has a night mode that reduces the amount of blue light that hits you when you’re taking your last stroll through TikTok – this can be set to automatically trigger at a certain time or can be switched on manually in your settings. Alternatively, you could choose to protect your eyes and your circadian rhythm with blue light filtering glasses.
- Don’t believe everything you read: if the social media news feed is causing you stress but you can’t bear to look away, just remind yourself that it’s not all true IRL. Be sure to fact check the News According to Auntie Jean’s Facebook - you may just discover that things aren’t quite as bad as she’d have you believe.
- Take the chance to give back: one sure fire way to guarantee a peaceful night’s sleep? A good deed! Whether it’s donating to a social media fundraiser or simply leaving a thoughtful message under a friend’s family photo, doing something good with your social media presence might just help to balance the bad.
Combat the effect of social media on sleep at Bensons for Beds
While we can’t wrest the phone out of your hand or convince you that nobody wants to see a bedtime BeReal, at Bensons for Beds we can make sure that you get a good night’s rest just as soon as you put that phone down. With a wide range of uber-comfortable beds and mattresses to choose from (including high tech beds with inbuilt charging ports for you true web addicts), we’reconfident that we can drag you away from social media and into the cosy land of nod.
To find out more about how we can help you enjoy a great night’s sleep, call us on 0808 166 4140 or drop into your nearest Bensons for Beds showroom.