Therapy & lifestyle

Is social media disturbing your sleep?

Do you ever worry about the negative effects of social media on your sleep? If so, here’s a warning worth sharing.

Effects of social media on sleep

A study published in the journal Preventive Medicine linking social media use and sleep disturbance may make you reconsider how often you check your accounts. In an earlier blog post we touched on the importance of turning off all electronics at least 1 hour before sleep, especially cell phones, which nearly two-thirds of all people ages 18–64 have within reach while they’re in bed.However, this study from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences takes it a step further. "This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep," said lead author Jessica C. Levenson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in University of Pittsburgh's Department of Psychiatry.

After studying nearly 1,800 frequent social media users, ages 19–32, there were two key findings:2

  • Frequency. Those who reported checking their social media accounts the most were three times as likely to experience sleep disturbances, compared with those who checked their accounts the least.
  • Duration. Participants who spent the most time on social media during the day had twice the risk of sleep disturbance, compared to those who spent the least.

"This may indicate that frequency of social media visits is a better predictor of sleep difficulty than overall time spent on social media," Dr. Levenson explained. "If this is the case, then interventions that counter obsessive 'checking' behavior may be most effective."

Should you cut down on social media use?

It’s important to take this study with a grain of salt. As senior author Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D. points out, more study is needed, particularly to determine whether social media use contributes to sleep disturbance or whether it could be the other way around. "Difficulty sleeping may lead to increased use of social media, which may in turn lead to more problems sleeping. This cycle may be particularly problematic with social media because many forms involve interactive screen time that is stimulating and rewarding and, therefore, potentially detrimental to sleep."

Healthy sleep habits

There are a number of good sleep habits we recommend following to hit your sleep target. And while we’re not quite ready to update this list to include limited social media use, it’s probably a good idea to consider this study and adhere to the old adage, “everything in moderation.”



  1. Time and Qualcomm. Where do you keep your phone while you sleep? 2012. Referenced in: Khazan O. How smartphones hurt sleep? The Atlantic. February 24, 2015. (accessed April 7, 2015).
  2. Levenson JC et al. The association between social media use and sleep disturbance among young adults. Prev Med. 2016;85:36–41. (accessed March 8, 2016).


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