Social Media, Cyberbullying, and Sleep

guest blog post by: Kristina Miladinovic,

Check out how social media affects children’s and teens’ sleep – we go into physical and psychological reasons why screens and social media should not be used before bed. Take a look at how cyberbullying and sleep are related and read on to find useful tips for ensuring a good night’s rest to your kid.  

Dopamine and melatonin 

Dopamine is a chemical that gives us a rewarding feeling after doing pleasurable activities. It makes us repeat feel-good activities over and over (eating delicious food or checking social media). 

Another role of dopamine is to increase alertness. Checking social media in the evening gives teens an unnatural spike in dopamine, killing their feeling of tiredness.

Melatonin is a hormone released in the evening, helping us relax and become sleepy. Unfortunately, blue light from screens and LEDs suppresses this hormone, telling our brains it’s still daytime. With low melatonin in our system, we are more alert and our sleep (when it finally comes) is not refreshing.

That’s why many teens stay up late looking at their smartphones – and when they do go to bed, their sleep just isn’t good enough. They need deep, restorative sleep that simply isn’t going to come with social media as their bedtime routine. 

Research shows that sleep problems are highly correlated with social media usage. In fact, those who check social media 30 minutes before sleep time are even more likely to have sleep problems.

Cyberbullying and sleep

There are many ways in which young people can get emotionally hurt online – it’s easy to be mean to others anonymously. Malicious posts can stay online for a long time – known and unknown people can see them, which makes humiliation worse.

Every party involved in cyberbullying has increased chances of having poor sleep – kids who are victims may have trouble falling asleep (anxiety about the posts, frequent visits to the websites). 

Kids who engage in bullying behaviors, however, also often have irregular sleep schedules. They may be having mental health problems or other factors going on that are disrupting their sleep.

Teens who own cell phones are more likely to be cyberbullied.

How to solve sleep problems related to social media?

Your kid can benefit from these prior-to-bed rules:

  • Maintaining the sleep/wake schedule throughout the week, weekends and holidays. 
  • Leaving a 9-hour window dedicated to sleep every night. Teens need about 9 hours of sleep for healthy development. Important hormones like human growth hormones and reproductive hormones are excreted during deep sleep. Sleep quality is essential in adolescence.
  • Sunlight exposure and sports are good for mood, confidence, and sleep.
  • Sleep environment should be cool (65°F or 18°C) and completely dark.

Teens are more likely to comply if they understand why this is important – encourage them to do their own research.

At first, teens may be unable to fall asleep at the right time and this is ok – their body will slowly adjust. Instruct your teens to educate themselves about the negative effects of using gadgets late at night.