Many parents know just how distracting social media use can be for teens during the day. But nighttime use may carry an even heavier toll.
A new study from the UK found that more than 1 in 5 UK teens may be regularly waking up during the night to check social media accounts — a habit that may disrupt sleep, increase fatigue at school and harm their overall sense of well-being.
"Having a regular wake time and using social media during the night appear to be more important in determining whether a young person is always tired during the day than the time they go to bed, how long they spend in bed and having a regular bedtime," said lead study author Kimberley Horton, a research assistant at the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research Data (WISERD) at Cardiff University, in a press release.
For this study, Horton and team used data from the Millennium Cohort Study, a government-funded study that follows kids born during the 2000-2001 school year. These researchers looked at the sleep habits of more than 800 teens ages 12 to 15, including how often they woke up at night to use social media.
Out of 412 eighth graders and 436 tenth graders, about 22 percent reported "almost always" waking up to check social media.
About 14 percent reported doing so once a week.
Among teens who said they "almost always" check social media during the night, 50 percent also reported "almost always" feeling tired at school. On the other hand, 32 percent of all eighth graders and 36 percent of all tenth graders reported feeling the same.
These teens were also asked to rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 7. Eighth graders who reported constantly feeling tired tended to rate their happiness one point lower than those who weren't as tired.
Horton and team found that adding sleep time to teens' schedules didn't solve this problem, as it led to sporadic wake times.
"It seems [very] important to discourage adolescents from using social media during the night," Horton said. "No amount of effort to develop regular bedtimes or to lengthen the time in bed would seem to be able to compensate for the disruption that this can cause."
This study was presented Sept. 16 at the British Educational Research Association's annual conference in Ireland. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.
Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.