According to a study from Levensen et al (2016), young adults aged 19-32 who spend more than four hours daily using social media generally sleep for under 5 hours. This trend does not relate purely to hours spent scrolling social media; as a broad range of scientific research have also demonstrated  the link between excessive television viewing and reduced hours of sleep.

This is in stark contrast to the recommended 8 hours of sleep the UK Sleep Institute recommends. Sleep plays a crucial role in cognitive development (memory, concentration, our ability to absorb information, and articulate ideas), physical recovery (from sport, exercise, or even illness) ; and maintaining a strong immune system. Sleep curtailment hinders the body’s ability to function effectively.

Excessive television viewing, use of smart phones, and/or social media is a precursor to sleep deprivation, attributed to the constant stimulation of artificial light. This is problematic to our health because excessive artificial light blunts our sleep hormone melatonin, and increases our stress hormone cortisol.

Melatonin is usually produced in the evening in synergy with our ‘circadian rhythms’, our internal body clock, which dictates how our body responds to light and darkness cues. Excessive screen viewing disrupts how our body usually responds in relation to the time of day.

According  to Chen and colleagues (2008), excessive screen viewing during adolescence prevents us from learning, playing, interacting with others, and forming peer relationships. Being in a state of constant arousal from computers, televisions and smart phones means we are in an a relentless state of alertness; which hinders our ability to 'switch off' and relax in the evening.

According to a study by Dr Becutti et al (2011), under 6 hours sleep per night leads to greater increases in a ‘hunger hormone’ called ghrelin, and reduces our ‘feeling full’ hormone leptin- meaning we tend to overeat. Poor sleep also increases our ‘stress hormone’ cortisol, encouraging us to eat more sugary foods

Another study carried out by Harvard School of Medicine analysed the sleeping habits of 60,000 nurses over a 16 year period. Those who consistently slept for 5 hours or less per night; had a 15% higher risk of becoming obese, based upon their weight gain, compared to colleagues who slept for more than six hours.

Sleep deprivation may also be associated with obesity as people are too tired to exercise, or do not have a regular eating pattern (based upon shift work and/or eating very late); although a growing body of research suggests disruption of our hormones is a primary factor.

Technology is not the lone factor that interferes with our quality of sleep. Our mental health also has an impact (stress and anxiety from work of relationship breakdowns), unemployment, excessive caffeine, alcohol intake, and noise pollution can also contribute.

However, our relationship with technology is something that we can take direction over. Making a realistic pledge, such as not watching television after a certain time, avoiding using smart phones in bed, not using phones at meal times; or limiting your social media views on a daily basis can make a difference.

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