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Social Media and Sleep

Social media is heavily integrated into the daily lives of kids, but it can negatively affect their health. Research shows that social media has a detrimental impact on the sleep quality of adolescents. Learn more about the side effects of using a phone at night and how social media use can disrupt sleep for teens.

How does social media affect sleep?

Use of social media can affect sleep by exposing kids to blue light and creating an addictive cycle of engagement that interferes with rest. These features can lead to less sleep and poorer sleep quality among young people. Insufficient sleep can cause kids to be tired during the day and negatively affect their development and wellbeing. 

Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and TikTok all have features that encourage prolonged usage, especially before bedtime. In particular, many social media apps also rely on push notifications to inspire kids to open the app when they should be sleeping.  A push notification is an alert sent to a user’s device to make them aware of new activity on an application. These push alerts can draw kids back to the apps when they should be sleeping.

Studies show that poor sleep quality can impact physical and mental health. Repercussions of sleep deprivation can include :

  • Cardiovascular risk
  • Cognitive performance
  • Compromised immune system 
  • Depression 
  • Future suicidal behavior 
  • Immune function
  • Increased risk-taking 
  • Metabolism
  • Mood
  • Poorer school performance 
  • Weight

Data also shows that sleep-deprived teens are more likely to take dangerous risks while driving, use drugs and alcohol and act violently. 

Keep reading to learn more about how each social media app can affect sleep. 

How Instagram allegedly affects sleep 

Text, email and push notifications from Instagram may affect sleep patterns. Instagram’s app design allegedly uses these methods to send vague notifications about activity on the app. These notifications pique interest and motivate kids to open Instagram.  Lawsuits have alleged that these notifications are especially harmful when they come through at night when the user should be winding down or sleeping. 

A teenager’s developmental state makes them seek social rewards more frequently than adults. They also often lack the impulse control to ignore the notifications.  As a result, it can be easy for young adults to get addicted to social media apps like Instagram.

The flow state kids can enter while on Instagram may cause sleep problems. Entering a flow state on social media means the user is fully absorbed in the content. The flow state can often lead to spending a lot of time on the platform without interruptions. 

Instagram Reels is a popular short-form video feature that grabs the attention of users and can lead to a flow state. Reels appear in the user’s feed and they begin playing automatically. Reels hook the user’s attention and encourage them to begin mindlessly scrolling. 

Meta Inc., Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, could help kids break away from this flow state, but it has chosen not to, harmed victims and families allege. Leaked internal documents have shown that Meta conducted research on how to reduce screen time. It even proposed several features, but allegedly chose not to implement them. 

Studies show that about one in six American teens say they use Instagram “almost constantly.”  The high utilization of Instagram among youth raises concerns about its health repercussions, including sleep disturbances. As a result, many lawsuits against Instagram concentrate on the company’s responsibility for allegedly harming young people.

How TikTok allegedly affects sleep 

TikTok may affect sleep because it provides a never-ending library of videos that can warp a user’s sense of time. TikTok also hides the clock at the top of some phones, making it even easier for the user to lose track of time.  It’s estimated that 63% of American teenagers have a TikTok  account and open the app daily. 

Social media usage is a common pre-bedtime activity for teenagers, but the time spent on apps like TikTok is causing a delay in bedtimes and leading to sleep problems.  

In theory, TikTok’s Family Pairing feature allows a parent can control screen time, the type of content the child can view and set messaging preferences. But lawsuits have alleged that Family Pairing is extremely flawed.

Reasons the Family Pairing feature is allegedly faulty include: 

  • Family Pairing is not a mandatory feature for minors.
  • Family Pairing requires the parent to also sign up for TikTok.
  • A parent must be aware of a child’s TikTok account.
  • Kids can browse TikTok without an account.
  • TikTok can be used on a web browser, but Family Pairing is only available through the downloaded app for mobile phones and tablets.

How Snapchat allegedly affects sleep 

Snapchat is a social media platform where users can send photos and short videos that disappear after they’ve been viewed. Snapchat is a common communication application among kids. Snapchat’s push notifications are designed to create urgency and encourage kids to open the application. Receiving Snapchat notifications at night can disrupt sleep and compel users to engage with the app at an inappropriate hour. 

There are several types of notifications users can receive that may impact sleep health.

  • New Snap: Push notifications inform users every time they receive a new Snap.  Push notifications are disruptive and are hard to disregard. New Snap notifications can cause a sense of social pressure for teens because of their fear of missing out (FOMO). 
  • Snap Story: Snapchat’s Stories feature enables users to post a photo or video that expires in 24 hours. Because a story’s lifespan is limited, notifications create extra urgency among youth. Missing a friend’s story could cause anguish from FOMO.
  • Streaks: A Snap Streak is an engagement metric users earn when they send or receive at least one Snap with a friend in three consecutive 24-hour periods.  Snapchat sends notifications if a Streak is close to expiring.  Maintaining Streaks is important to teenagers. Studies show that losing a Streak can cause teenagers to feel a sense of betrayal and other negative emotions. 

Notifications make it challenging for young teens and children to ignore the application. The notifications can amplify the pressure teens already feel to maintain their friendships on Snapchat. 

Snapchat’s notifications are effective. One study outlined that American teenagers reported checking Snapchat 30 times on an average day.  Another study reported that 15% of US teens use Snapchat “almost constantly.” 

The distress Snapchat causes teens may lead to health issues and poor sleep habits. Many parents are taking action with Snapchat lawsuits. 

How YouTube allegedly affects sleep 

YouTube is allegedly designed to make kids enter a flow-like state that encourages high use of their product. This state of mind makes it challenging for adolescents to self-regulate their activity time and can lead to poor sleep patterns. 

The flow-inducing tactics YouTube deploys are recommended videos, an autoplay feature and YouTube Shorts. 

  1. Recommended Videos: YouTube recommends videos for users to watch on their homepage and on each video as a suggested “next up” option.  YouTube’s technology collects data about the user and uses the information to suggest videos that will hook them. 
  2. Autoplay: The autoplay feature ensures a new video is queued up at the end of each video. The next video will automatically start playing. Since videos will continue to play without any action from the user, there is no natural stopping point. Without a natural stopping point, kids have a hard time removing themselves from the flow state. 
  3. YouTube Shorts: Shorts compete with Instagram Reels and TikTok. Users swipe through the short-form videos to watch media tailored to their interests. The never-ending catalog of videos for kids to access makes it easy for them to lose track of time. 

These three features can contribute to excessive use and disrupted sleep in adolescents. One study found that for every 15 minutes a teen watches YouTube, they are 24% more likely to experience sleep deprivation. 

Data also shows that recommended videos make up 70% of a user’s time on YouTube.  

YouTube is easily accessible to kids because it comes pre-installed on many tech devices  and does not require an account.  Usage among adolescents is extremely high. Reports show that more than 95% of teenagers have used YouTube  and 75% of them visit YouTube daily. 

Many parents believe that YouTube and other social media sites are worsening the mental health of their children and causing sleep deprivation. These concerns are leading parents to explore legal action and file YouTube lawsuits. 

Sleep and social media lawsuits

Parents are starting to take legal action against social media companies for the negative impacts they allegedly have on their children’s physical and mental health. Adults who were harmed as minors are also filing lawsuits. Sleep disturbances are one of the many harms alleged in recent lawsuits.

Social media lawsuits may name a wide range of associated harms, including: 

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Disruptive, impulse-control and conduct disorders
  • Eating and feeding disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Sleep disorders
  • Suicide
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Trauma- and stressor-related disorders

Contact a social media attorney 

Motley Rice is reviewing allegations that multiple social media platforms, including Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat, are intentionally and deliberately designed without regard for the safety of children. If you or a loved one have experienced mental health issues worsened by social media, you may have options.

Call Attorney Jonathan Orent at 1.800.768.4026 or complete this form to explore your options.

Frequently asked questions about social media and sleep

How does social media disrupt sleep?

Social media use affects sleep because social media apps foster addictive use, encouraging kids and teens to spend time on apps that should be spent sleeping. This leads to both less sleep overall and worse sleep quality.  Sleep disturbance in teens can impact physical and mental health, including cardiovascular risk, cognitive performance, immune function and mood.  

What are the side effects of using your phone at night?

Insomnia and poor sleep quality are side effects of using your phone at night. Insufficient sleep can also be correlated to: 

  • Cardiovascular risk
  • Compromised immune function
  • A decline in brain functions used for critical thinking, problem-solving, memory and more
  • Depression
  • Increased anxiety
  • Negative effects on weight and metabolism

How does social media affect sleep deprivation?

Social media algorithms are designed to influence dopamine delivery.  Elevated dopamine levels lead to compulsive social media usage and sleep deprivation. When dopamine levels decrease, kids can start feeling anxious and irritable, making it difficult for them to fall asleep.  Young people who forgo sleep at night to use social media because of FOMO, or fear of missing out, may be more likely to develop or worsen a major depressive disorder.

Our social media lawsuit experience

If you or a loved one have experienced harm caused by social media use, our law firm can assist with a potential legal claim. Motley Rice attorneys have experience with complex lawsuits against tech companies. Contact our team today to learn more about how we can support you and your family.

Read more on our social media litigation experience.

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