Could This Habit Be Affecting Your Sleep?

As someone whose job it is to scan social media channels on the reg, all the articles about the detriments of too much technology stress me out. I can detox to a degree, but there's simply no way that I cut myself off from Twitter entirely if I still want to be able to pay rent. Thankfully, though, researchers recently published a press release reminding everyone that these findings are correlative — which means there's a lot more to the story than simply, "OMG, Instagram causes depression!!" The main finding, at this point, is that extensive use of social media may be linked to sleep problems. And that's where all the trouble starts.

In case you've literally never read a health and wellness article, sleep (or lack thereof) affects pretty much every major element in a human's life. In 2014, a team lead by Dr. Jessica Levenson from the University of Pittsburgh studied 1,788 adults, ages 19-32, and their social media habits. In addition to gathering usage data — we spend an average of 61 minutes a day on social media, FYI — Dr. Levenson's team found that 30 percent of participants experienced sleep disturbances. That's a lot of sleep-deprived humans wandering around.

The big question, obviously, is why? Why is social media usage tied to poor sleep habits? Remember, correlation does not equal causation, so just because the two are linked doesn't mean that one is necessarily causing the other to occur. It's possible, certainly, that extended time on social media, as opposed to face-to-face interactions, may signal depression or other emotional issues; or, the answer may not lie in what platforms we choose to peruse, or how we interact with our apps at all. Instead, the problem may lie in our actual phones and computers.

We already know that the blue light emitted from the screens could be affecting our levels of melanopsin, a light-sensitive molecule that our bodies use to regulate our circadian rhythms. When it absorbs the blue-green light coming from our phones and tablets and computers, it signals to our brains that it's daylight. Time to wake up!

Regardless of what the answer may be, however, the most important thing to come from these discussions is the realization that we need to give our bodies a "check out time." Time spent away from devices, away from visually stimulating screens. Read a book. Write in a journal. Remind yourself, and your body, that there's life outside the screen. Even if social media usage isn't causing our sleep problems, it still might help your overall well being to take a break every now and again.

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