Most of us use social media. While a lot can be said on the impact of social media on mental health, it’s also important to look at the connection between social media and sleep. The brain needs sufficient sleep to process emotional information. Research shows us that a persistent lack of sleep can influence a person’s mood and emotional reactivity, and poor sleep can increase the severity of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. Research also clearly shows that social media use is linked to poor sleep quality. Here are simple tips to help reduce your social media use and improve your sleep.
Tip #1: Set your phone to automatically shift to Bedtime mode or Night shift to filter out blue light at night time. The brain produces the hormone melatonin at night time when natural life decreases, which is what causes our bodies to feel sleepy. Looking at our phones at night exposes us to bright light, which signals to the brain that we need to be awake and not asleep. Our bodies don’t get the message to wind down, and our sleep gets delayed. The black and white layout of Bedtime mode or Night shift on your phone will help discourage social media use and reduces the exposure to light at night.
Tip #2: Assess the content of your night time social media use. Social media is endlessly cognitively stimulating. Our brains need to slow down at night to prepare for sleep. Is the media content you consume cognitively, emotionally, or socially engaging? Passively looking at photos or reading on your phone is less disruptive to sleep than messaging, watching videos, or checking the news.
Tip #3: Turn off your notifications at night time to reduce the temptation to engage with social media. Social media use can lead to worries of social disapproval and a fear of missing out. It’s hard to resist staying connected when you know friends or family are still engaged online. Turn off your notifications, or go the extra mile and turn your phone off or leave it in another room. Your social relationships will benefit more from your improved mood as a result of your improved sleep.
In general, try to reduce your social media use 2 hours to 30 minutes before you go to bed. Engage in relaxing activities instead like reading, listening to music, taking a bath, meditation, or stretching. Social media is not going away, but we can develop habits to reduce it’s impact on our physical and mental health. Improving sleep is a great place to start.