Can’t Sleep? Switch Off Facebook

Social media has changed all of our lives in ways we couldn’t possibly have imagined when Facebook was new. Back in 2007, when the big blue social media brand first opened its doors to people from outside the American university network, most people saw it as nothing more than a better version of Friends Reunited, or a stripped-back MySpace. We thought of it as a place to connect with old friends and keep track of what the people we cared about were doing with our lives. 

Few of us could have imagined what it’s now turned into. For an increasing number of people, social media has become a career option. There are children in our schools who are growing up with ‘influencer’ as a serious career aspiration. They might not even be wrong to – there are several cases of minors making six figures a year or more from doing exactly that. We no longer just have Facebook – we have Instagram accounts too, so people can literally see everything we do on a daily basis. We have Twitter to record our capsule thoughts and share them with other people. Our young people don’t call or text each other anymore; they use Snapchat. Social media has redefined the way that we, as a society, communicate with each other. 

It’s long been suspected that several aspects of the way we interact with social media may have negative implications for our mental health and our quality of life. Now, studies have shown that social media may be doing more than that – it could be affecting our quality of sleep

Designed To Addict Us? 

In the past, health experts and analysts have warned that the way we ‘pull down’ to refresh a social media feed is exactly the same as someone playing casino slots spin again in search of a winning line. When we refresh, we might see something new or interesting, and that triggers the pleasure centers of our brains. This is the same feeling that a mobile slots player gets when they spin and win. On the surface, you may not think there’s anything wrong with this – mobile slots websites are, after all, legal in most states of the USA. There’s a huge difference, though. For a start, people going on mobile slots websites know what they’re signing up for, and what they’re there to do. Secondly, mobile slots are restricted for access by adults only. Social media websites are not. By using social media, young people are experiencing the same highs and lows that a gambler does – but they’re not old enough to gamble. We can get addicted to refreshing those feeds, and when we’re addicted, we find it hard to step away. 

The Blue Light Issue

It’s not just the potential of becoming addicted to repeatedly refreshing feeds that’s an issue, either. Just looking at the screen of your laptop, tablet, or smartphone late at night can make it difficult for you to get to sleep. LCD screens emit something known as ‘blue light,’ which has been proven to reduce the brain’s ability to manufacture the chemicals which allow us to sleep. This results in a ‘Catch 22’ situation. You can’t sleep at night, and so you pick up your mobile phone to check out social media until you’re tired. The longer you spend checking your social media, the longer it will take for your brain to induce a sleep state. Taken together, that means less sleep per person per night on average. 

The Cumulative Effect

The basic effect of not getting enough sleep is that you’ll feel tired the following day. As a result of being tired, you may be a little irritable, and not as productive as you would be if you were well-rested. That’s a bad thing, but it’s the thin edge of the wedge. Night after night of bad sleep will cause progressively larger problems – and some of those problems can develop into major health conditions. 

For a start, most of the processes which govern the recording of memory happen when you’re asleep. If you spend a full day learning something or absorbing information and then don’t get enough sleep when that day is over, your chances of recalling what you’ve been told the following day reduce dramatically. Over the course of a full week, you may find that by Friday, you have very little recollection of what happened on Monday. For young people, this could be detrimental to study. For older people, this could have hugely negative consequences for work. 

A bad memory might be the least of your concerns if you develop one of the more serious problems associated with a lack of sleep, though. Much of your body’s insulin production is done while you’re sleeping. If you don’t give your body enough sleep time to produce that insulin, there’s a risk that your blood sugar levels will become uncontrolled. That’s how diabetes happens. Regardless of your weight or your diet, your lack of sleep could eventually contribute to you suffering from high blood sugar levels, and then diabetes as a consequence. 

The Best Advice? 

The advice of most specialists is that we should spend no more than two hours on social media per day. Ideally, we should be spending no more than two hours staring at screens of any description per day, but that isn’t always possible because of people’s jobs. As well as limiting ourselves to two hours per day, we should also avoid logging on to social media for a full hour before bedtime. That means setting a bedtime for yourself, sticking to it, and making sure you put your phone down for an hour before you get into bed. If the advice of leading psychiatrists is correct, you should find yourself getting to sleep much faster and enjoying a more restful, unbroken sleep as a result. 

We’re not saying social media is bad, and nor do we want to see it go away. We just don’t want to see it becoming an obstacle to sleep, because a good night’s sleep is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Give yourself the best chance of that by knowing when to stop finding out what the rest of your social network is up to.