How Does Social Media Affect Sleep?

Does social media affect sleep?

The Impact of Doomscrolling and Social Media Addiction 

The introduction of social media into our lives in the early 2000s has changed how we connect with the world forever. What was once writing pen pal letters to our friends over the summer, or leaving a voice mail on answering machines, has now turned into instant messaging each other through a social media platform.

Social media began as a tool to get online and connect with people. It meant talking to anyone across the globe, day or night, in a split second. What started as a way to communicate with people has become a favoured news source, daily entertainment and, for some, an addiction. 

As of 2022, 20.5 million Australians were active social media users – that’s 79.9% of the population. Research shows that we now spend nearly 2 hours a day on social media, which may not sound like a lot to some. However, the issue lies when social media users can’t put their phones down, especially at night. 

In this article, we will talk about the increasing impact of social media on our sleep habits and how we can put strategies in place to get back to having a good night’s rest.

The Doomscrolling Pandemic

While the Covid-19 pandemic was developing in early 2020, another lesser-known pandemic called ‘doomscrolling’ was too. You may have heard of this term before, or it could be entirely new to you; either way, it’s becoming an increasing issue in the social media world and is affecting our sleep quality.

So, what is doomscrolling?

Doomscrolling refers to the act of continuously scrolling through bad news on social media. In times of high stress and uncertainty, as seen in recent years with the Covid-19 pandemic, social media users will scroll through their platforms endlessly and find it challenging to step back from the negative news.

Why do we doomscroll?

With at least 52% of Australians using social media as their primary news source, it’s hard for us to take a step back from staying connected. Research has suggested that doomscrolling came about naturally due to the addictive nature of social media platforms. 

But the foundational reason is that when we’re experiencing times of stress or negative emotions, we want to find something that makes us feel safe. And for a lot of us, that means searching social media endlessly for something to give us hope and relief, which leads to excessive internet use and impacts our ability to fall asleep.

How does doomscrolling on social media impact mental health?

One of the biggest dangers of doomscrolling is that it’s mostly done at night before bed, significantly impacting sleep. Overthinking happens the most at night, right before we go to sleep. By doomscrolling before bed, you’re feeding your brain a lot of negative and overwhelming information right before the most crucial time for your brain to relax.

Here are a few ways doomscrolling can affect your brain:

  • Releases stress hormones in the brain
  • Increases symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Can cause insomnia and sleepless nights overthinking
  • Changes your worldview to a much darker and scarier place
  • It can make you focus and find more negatives in your own life

So, not only does doomscrolling interrupt your sleep, it can ultimately change your overall mood, mental state and day-to-day behaviour.

Why Are Social Media Platforms Addictive?

Many factors come into play when discussing why social media is so addictive. A Harvard University study found that using social media platforms lights up the same receptors in the brain that also ignite when taking addictive substances like sugar or illegal drugs. Likes, love hearts, friend requests and comment notifications, are all seen as “rewards” in our brains, and they are incredibly stimulating. And, much like any other addiction, stopping is incredibly difficult.

But why does it seem to be the most difficult to stop that social media blackhole scroll right before bed? Well, we have a few ideas.

Neverending content and ultimate access

One of the most significant addictive factors of social media platforms is the neverending scroll. Social media feeds never end, and there is always new content to engage with by simply refreshing the page. Social media platforms are almost always accessible because they’re free and can be reached on a mobile app or desktop device, making engagement easy, accessible and constant. 

FOMO or the fear of missing out

Another factor that researchers have indicated makes social media so addictive is FOMO, the fear of missing out. This behaviour is particularly prevalent before bed as users will be asleep for several hours and are worried they may miss an essential piece of news or update. 

FOMO users are more likely to look at their social media within 15 minutes of going to bed. Ultimately, this behaviour interrupts sleep and impacts your natural circadian rhythm.

Revenge bedtime procrastination

A lesser-known reason you may be up all night on social media is ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’. This behaviour refers to sacrificing a good night’s sleep for leisure time due to a high-stress job or busy schedule. 

Although ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’ doesn’t always mean social media scrolling, it is one of the most common activities. Very late nights and early morning wake-ups lead to sleep deprivation, which can negatively affect your physical and mental health.

How To Stop Doomscrolling Before Bed

1. Limit screen time at night and turn off the phone

If turning off your phone sounds too tricky, setting screen time limits on social media apps might be the reminder you need to pop the phone down at night and hit the hay. At least 17.5% of users have tracked their social media screen time or set time limits for their most addictive apps. 

2. Try to stay off social media when you can

We’re not saying to go off the grid completely, but assessing the apps you’re using every day and deciding whether they have a positive impact on your life or not can help you stop the doomscroll. If any social media app you’re on brings stress or a significant distraction to your everyday life, especially sleep, it might be time to uninstall it. 

3. Play the algorithm and stop bad news

When browsing social media, try to use the algorithm to your advantage. Each app’s algorithm is designed to show you more of what keeps you most engaged. So if you’re interacting with a lot of negative news, that’s what you’ll be fed. Conversely, if you search for happy themes like funny cat videos, friend posts and positive news, more of those will appear on your feed. Ensure to block users, groups, pages or posts that make you feel bad and curate your own social media feed.

4. Live life in the moment

Now, this might sound a little Eat, Pray, Love, but one of the best things you can do to fight a social media addiction is to try and be as present and in the moment as possible. For example, try putting the phone away when you’re at dinner or conversing with someone. You can experiment by leaving your phone at home and going to an event, or doing an activity and seeing how long you can go without using your phone or posting on social media.

5. Find off-screen activities

Once you’ve started to cut down on social media, you’ll have time to fill it with other activities. Try and find off-screen things that will keep you busy and engaged. For example, you can use that time to socialise with people or remain active by playing a sport. You can also find winddown activities like writing, journaling, painting, reading, or puzzling.

Creating a Successful Bedtime Routine

One of the best ways to avoid falling into a social media scrolling rut before bed is to create a habitual bedtime routine. Here are some things you can do to start falling asleep faster. 

  1. Have a cup of tea before bed (lavender or chamomile is best)
  2. Take a shower or bath before bed
  3. Listen to relaxing music
  4. Meditate for a few minutes
  5. Read a book
  6. Write a to-do list for tomorrow
  7. Journal or write some thoughts
  8. Prep your bedroom (e.g. make your bed, get your pj’s on, get the right temperature)
  9. Keep a consistent bedtime by going to bed at the same time every night

Your Mattress Matters

Ensuring you get the best night’s sleep possible starts with a great foundation, which means having a comfortable and supportive mattress. At Yinahla, we have a luxury range of mattresses made in Australia and designed for ultimate comfort and support. So put the phone down and hop into an award-winning bed from Yinahla.