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Teens And Interrupted Sleeping Patterns: How Social Media Affects Their Brain

teens and interrupted sleeping patterns

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Spending too much time on social media has a multitude of negative effects on teens. One of the most significant ways screen time affects teens’ sleep hygiene is when they use phones or computers before bed. The blue light from screens disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep, and can cause sleep disorders such as insomnia. Sleep is a time for regeneration and repair, but blue light sends a signal to the brain that it’s daytime. A lack of sleep can contribute to many health concerns, and makes it more challenging to deal with life in general. Teens and interrupted sleeping patterns can lead to an unhappy household.

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How Much Sleep The Average Teen Needs

According to John Hopkins Medicine, teens require an average of 9.5 hours of sleep every night. Teens need more sleep than younger children do because their brains are maturing while their bodies are going through changes brought on by puberty. Teens are also adjusting to a new sleep-wake cycle that is brought on by biological changes. Many teens consider themselves night owls, which is due in part to the fact that their bodies don’t produce melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel tired, until 10 or 11 pm. 

Getting enough sleep is essential for teens to manage these changes and the added stress of new academic and social responsibilities. Because teens won’t feel tired until later in the evening, they should at least be incentivized to get to bed as soon as possible. Good sleep habits help teens function better, and can protect them from developing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety

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How Much Social Media Is Safe For The Teen Brain?

According to Columbia University, less than three hours of social media use every day is a safe amount for teens. Some teens are online almost the entire day, which prevents them from being present at home and school. Keep in mind that there is risk associated with social media platforms of all kinds, as one cannot be deemed as healthier than another. For parents, it is critical to have boundaries around social media use and to model positive behavior, such as not being on your phone during family meals and outings. You don’t need to have an all-or-nothing approach to social media. Using it once homework has been completed and not before bedtime, for example, can help reduce the amount of time spent on these platforms and technology.

How Social Media Affects The Teenage Brain

Social media can be addictive because it lights up the brain’s reward centers. Teens are more vulnerable to social media misuse or overuse because of peer pressure, as social media platforms are one of the primary ways teens communicate. Social media also conditions the brain to pay attention to things that are not important in real life, such as the number of likes on photographs. Because the brain is being conditioned to pay attention to these virtual measures of popularity, it may become less adept at reading facial expressions and other important interpersonal skills. Social media can become an all-consuming activity that takes away from real-world experiences and can contribute to low self-esteem and other emotional issues. Here are a few other ways social media affects teenagers: 

  • Negative self-image
  • FOMO
  • Dealing with cyberbullying
  • Increased rates of teen depression

Negative Self-Image

Social media platforms are full of edited and filtered photographs that can begin to look real as time passes. The irony is though, that people don’t look like the digitally altered versions of themselves. Teens are very impressionable, however, and often compare themselves to these so-called perfect images, and begin to feel unhappy with the way they look when they fail to measure up to the images shared by their favorite celebrity or social media influencer. 

teen mental health awareness

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) Is Real

When social media use becomes a priority, teens can develop a very real fear of missing out, also known as FOMO. FOMO is that feeling that important things are happening, along with wanting very much to know what those things are. Social media is a way to feel like you are involved in other people’s lives, even if you aren’t participating. This indirect involvement can be soothing and highly addictive, as feelings of FOMO are linked to problematic social media use and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. 

Dealing With Cyberbullying

The teen years are a formative time, especially in regard to social situations. While you might hope that teens’ social lives would be authentic and uplifting, bullying happens across all ages and peer groups. Cyberbullying is even more of an issue with teenagers because technology acts as an extension of their social lives. Teens can be excluded from chats, unfollowed by classmates, or be sent unkind comments. Cyberbullying contributes to teen stress and in some cases can take a major toll on teens’ mental health and wellbeing, no matter what aspect they happen to be involved in. Teens can be passive witnesses out of fear of being targeted, and many teens suffer immensely as victims of cyberbullying, which can cause severe depression and lead to suicide. Even the aggressors themselves suffer, as there will at some point be consequences for that kind of behavior. 

The Rise Of Teen Depression

Social media has contributed to the rise of teen depression because of the toxic environment it creates for teenagers. Too much time spent online detracts from school work and home life and can make it more challenging to be present in general. Symptoms of untreated depression include fatigue, interrupted sleep patterns, apathy, and suicidal thoughts. Depression treatment for teens may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and practical lifestyle changes to improve sleep hygiene, such as reduced time playing video games or engaging in social media and more. 

How We Can Help You

At BasePoint Academy, we have years of experience treating teen depression in safe, family-oriented settings. We specialize in teen treatment for depression and offer IOP and PHP programs that are tailored to meet your teen’s specific needs. Untreated depression only gets worse as time goes on, and can increase the risk of self-harm and suicide. Depression in teens can be triggered by a lack of sleep, poor sleep hygiene, and unmanageable stress. Signs of stress in teens include disrupted sleep patterns, irritability, and social isolation. If you or a teen in your life are struggling with depression, contact us today. 

Sources:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31418890/

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/teenagers-and-sleep-how-much-sleep-is-enough

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/teens-and-sleep

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-asymmetric-brain/202106/fomo-and-social-media

https://www.cnn.com/2016/07/12/health/social-media-brain/index.html

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