If you thought that peeing in the middle of the night was the worst, imagine being pulled awake to check your Instagram likes? According to a new study of British youth, this is the sleepy reality of many kids — as in, a fifth of teens regularly wake up at night to check their social media.
The paper drew from four years of surveys of some 480 randomly selected Welsh students. They answered questions about how early they went to sleep every night; the consistency of the times they go to bed and get up; their social-media use; their energy levels at school; their subjective well-being; and similar queries.
While almost half of respondents said that they never interrupted their sleep with refreshing their social feeds, Cardiff University researcher Sally Power and her colleagues found that 21.6 percent of the younger cohort (12- and 13-year-olds) and 22.5 percent of the older cohort (14- and 15-year-olds) said that “they almost always wake up during the night to use social media.”
Gender played a big role, especially in the younger cohort: 26.4 percent of girls regularly woke up to check their devices, compared with 16.5 of boys.
The nighttime social-media users were about three times more likely to say that they constantly felt tired at school (same as, interestingly enough, kids who didn’t have a consistent wake-up time). Those tired teens were less happy than their better-rested peers.
While the paper didn’t get too far into the mechanism for the sleeplessness, the social comparisons invited by Instagram likes and their kin are shown to have a negative effect on teen happiness, while the blue light emitted by devices prompts the body to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, prompting a sort of jet lag.
Sleeplessness has a way of coloring everything else, too: When newlyweds are better rested, they like their relationships more.