Teenagers who use social media for at least three hours a day are more likely than their peers to go to sleep late and have trouble waking during the school week.
What we asked you
When you were 14 years old, we asked you about your daily social media habits, as well as your sleeping routines.
The researchers took into account factors that could be associated with heavy social media use and poorer sleep, such as family background, mental health and wellbeing, and physical health.
What the researchers found
Heavy social media users, those who used social networking or messaging sites for three to five hours a day, were 17 per cent more likely to go to sleep after 11pm on school nights compared to average users, who used social media for one to three hours each day. Heavy social media users also tended to have trouble waking during the week, being 54 per cent more likely to get up later than 8am compared to average users. The heaviest social media users, those who went online for more than five hours a day, were 70 per cent more likely to go to bed late compared to average users, and were 91 per cent more likely to get up later than 8am. They were also more likely than average users to have disrupted sleep during the night.
More than a fifth of teenagers spent at least five hours a day on social media apps and sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. One in seven spent three to five hours a day. Around a third went online for one to three hours a day, and just over a third accessed social media for less than an hour a day or never. Girls were twice as likely as boys to spend more than five hours a day on social media, and were also more likely to go to bed late, have trouble falling asleep and experience disrupted nights. In previous research, poor sleep has been found to have implications for teenagers’ mental health, obesity and academic performance.
Why this research matters
The findings have highlighted how heavy social media use can disrupt sleep during the school week as teens could be catching up with their friends on social media close to bedtime. It also suggested that social media might indirectly interrupt a regular sleeping schedule as other activities, such as homework, could be delayed due to checking and responding to social media notifications.
Thanks to the data your generation has provided, policymakers in government and health professionals will now be able to provide better support and guidance to teenagers on how to maintain good sleep habits.
Find out more about this research
The full scientific paper was published in BMJ Open in October 2019.