Video abstract from Ahuti Das‐Friebel on the JCPP paper ‘Bedtime social media use, sleep, and affective wellbeing in young adults: an experience sampling study’. This is part of the September 2020 Special Issue Waking Up to the Importance of Sleep for Child & Adolescent Mental Health & Disorders.
Authors: Ahuti Das‐Friebel, Anita Lenneis, Anu Realo, Adam Sanborn, Nicole K. Y. Tang, Dieter Wolke, Adrian von Mühlenen, Sakari Lemola
First published: 14 September 2020
Hi. My name is Ahuti Das-Friebel and I am a PhD student in the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick. Recently my colleagues and I published an article in the ‘Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry’, titled, ‘Bedtime Social Media Use, Sleep, and Affective Wellbeing in Young Adults: an Experience Sampling Study’. And in this short video I will walk you through our paper, explaining what we did, and what we found.
There’s been a lot of buzz regarding the effects of social media on younger populations, so that’s children, adolescents, and young adults. A large part of that narrative, that’s based on scientific research, suggests that excessive social media use has a negative impact on the sleep, but also on the mental wellbeing of younger people. And the majority of those studies have focused, exclusively, on children and adolescents. So we were interested in exploring these relationships in a slightly older population, that of young adults. And we also wanted to overcome limitations of past studies. Where in past studies use primarily cross sectional methods to investigate this phenomenon.
We were interested in answering three main questions. First, does bedtime social media use lead to poor sleep the same night? Second, does poor sleep lead to lower levels of positive affect and higher levels of negative affect the following day? And third, is the relationship between bedtime social media use and affective wellbeing the following day due to poor sleep that is experienced in between? We recruited 101 young adults, all Undergraduate students, at the University of Warwick, and were an average age of 19 years.
At the beginning of the study participants were required to respond to a questionnaire that stored information regarding their demographics, but also, about their current mental health. Then, over the next 14 days, using a smartphone application, we sent them daily surveys that they responded to with information regarding, their previous night’s sleep duration. How satisfied they were with their sleep. And also, how much time they had spent using social media, especially in the last hour before they went to bed…before they went to sleep.
We assessed their mood using five daily surveys that were sent at different times each day, where they had to rate their mood in the moment. We were interested in two main categories, positive mood that was assessed via items such as happy and enthusiastic. And negative mood that was assessed by items such as stressed, worried, or upset. Participants also wore activity monitors on their wrists, called actigraphs, throughout the course of the study, and through this we were able to obtain objective sleep information.
Our results showed that contrary to evidence, bedtime social media use did not lead to poorer sleep the same night. When looking at the relationship between sleep and affective wellbeing the following day, we found that it was only subjective sleep satisfaction that had an association with affective wellbeing. And specifically, that when young adults were less satisfied with their sleep, they tended to experience higher levels of negative affect and lower levels of positive affect the following day.
Interestingly, we conducted a sub-group analysis and we found that for individuals who experienced higher levels of depressive symptoms at the beginning of the study, for them, bedtime social media use predicted shorter sleep the same night. Although, social media use did not have an impact on their affective wellbeing the following day.
These results led us to conclude that social media use is not as detrimental, or may not be as detrimental to the sleep and mental wellbeing of healthy young adults. However, it may in fact be harmful to the sleep of individuals who are vulnerable. And it is this population that may consider avoiding using social media before sleeping at night.
Our results suggest, or imply, that the affects of social media use on the sleep and mental wellbeing of young people is not as black and white as has been previously assumed. Future studies could focus on disentangling the differential impacts of different social media on its users. Or, it could also focus on investigating how different types of electronic media use, and not just social media use, can disrupt sleep and the mental wellbeing of young people.