A new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine claims that young adults who use social media frequently are more likely to suffer sleep disturbances. The study, published online in the journal Preventive Medicine, was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and suggests that physicians must take social media habits into account when discussing sleep issues.

The study assessed the use of 11 most popular social networking websites and sleep disturbances based on questionnaires answered by 1,788 adults ages 19 through 32 years in the US. The participants were reported to check the sites up to 30 times weekly and spend 61 minutes daily using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

Thirty percent of the participants claimed to have high levels of sleep disturbance. Those who checked social media the most in a week were three times more likely to develop sleep disturbances while those who spent the most time throughout the day have twice the risk of suffering from sleep disturbance.

Flickr/ Kārlis Dambrāns

This indicates that the frequency of social media visits is a better indicator of sleep difficulty than the total time spent on them according to lead author Jessica Levenson. Consequently, managing excessive checking behavior is probably the most effective to combat the behaviour.

Apart from the possible effects social media has on personal relationships, this new research shows that habits such as staying up late to post photos on Instagram displaces sleep and having conversations on Facebook encourages physiological arousal and the light emitted by the gadgets disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms. Additionally, those who have a hard time falling asleep may resort to social media to pass the time, which even deprives them of more sleep.

“This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep,” Levenson says. “It uniquely examines the association between social media use and sleep among young adults who are, arguably, the first generation to grow up with social media.”