Pressure to Be Online Linked to Teen Sleep Problems, Depression


A Glasgow University survey with 467 teen participants has revealed that teens are under pressure to be online day and night, which leads to sleep deprivation and might be linked to anxiety and depression.

Teens who are extensively emotionally invested in their social media activity and are active during the night are more likely to feel anxiety and depression, scholars reveal.

The study, which measured sleep quality, self-confidence, anxiety, depression and emotional investment in social media, suggests that teens feel pressure to respond to posts and texts immediately and do not regard ‘switching off’ as an option.

Dr. Heather Cleland Woods, the study’s lead researcher, encourages parents to make sure their children switch off at night so that they get a distraction-free good night’s sleep.

“Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this. …Evidence is increasingly supporting a link between social media use and wellbeing, particularly during adolescence.”

Dr. Woods added that teens who are on social media during the night are mostly affected, especially if they’re ‘highly emotionally invested’ in social media use.

“This means we have to think about how our kids use social media, in relation to time for switching off.”

The study found that the pressure to be available online 24 hours a day – what is known as the fear of missing out (FOMO) — and the pressure to instantly respond to messages has a large impact on teens’ mental health.

Sleep deprivation due to night-time social media use and extensive emotional investment in social media result in sleep deprivation, low self-esteem and high anxiety and depression levels, the findings say.

The most widely-used social media sites according to the survey are Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Youtube.

The 467 teens ages 11 to 17 were from the same school and were guided throughout the questionnaires by the researchers to ensure they submitted answers that were reliable and accurate, Mirror Daily reports.  Students were asked questions such as:

“How many hours do you use social media on a typical day?” and,

“How long do you use social media after the time you intended to fall asleep?”

The cycle between lack of sleep and anxiety and depression appears to be complex. It happens the other way around too; the pressure teens feel to be on social media constantly makes them anxious and depressed which might lead to poor sleep quality, a situation that further exacerbates the issue.