With more than a billion active users globally, it's clear that Facebook has a lot of fans. Science, though, doesn't seem to be one of them.
If you keep an eye out for recent research findings, you'll notice a drumbeat of studies with less than positive things to say about social media. There are several that show using social media is likely to make you more depressed and lonelier. Another shows that quitting Facebook will probably boost your happiness. Or how about the research that showed social media might even make you dumber by letting you lean on your friends' smarts rather than learning stuff yourself.
Now a new study adds another count to this long list of charges against social media. The sites might also be messing with your sleep.
More social media means less sleep
To come to this conclusion a team out of University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine surveyed 1,788 young Americans about both their social media habits and their sleep. Lo and behold, they found that the more time a person spent checking sites like Facebook, the more likely they were to experience problems with their sleep. In fact, those who checked social media most frequently were three times more likely to have sleep troubles.
"This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep," commented lead author Jessica C. Levenson, though the researchers acknowledged further study is definitely needed.
The research only uncovered a link between social media and sleep problems; it didn't explain why such a correlation might exist, though the researchers have a few ideas . They include the light from our screens interfering with our circadian rhythms, social media promoting "emotional or cognitive arousal" that keeps us up, or simply people putting off going to bed to play just one more round of that Facebook game or post another pic on Instagram.
Alternately, it may also prove true that insomniacs are simply filling their sleepless hours with social media. In fact, this might even evolve into a vicious cycle. "Difficulty sleeping may lead to increased use of social media, which may in turn lead to more problems sleeping," said Levenson.
Despite all these remaining uncertainties the researchers are concerned enough about these initial findings to suggest doctors might want to ask those who come to them complaining of sleep disturbances about social media use. Therefore, if you're struggling to get enough sleep yourself, it might be worth considering if social media could be playing a role in your problems.
If your soul-searching causes you to conclude that it's time to rein in your social media use for the sake of your sleep, be aware that there are lots of expert tips out there on how to get your compulsion to check these sites under control. Here's advice from a Stanford psychologist, for example.