Summary: Controlled nighttime use of social media and apps can help alleviate negative thoughts in teens before they fall asleep, according to a new study.
Source: flinders university
Overuse of mobile devices is frowned upon, but one benefit may be their ability to create a distraction and positively affect teens’ ability to fall asleep, according to new research from Flinders University.
Feedback from over 600 teenagers aged 12 to 18 at schools in South Australia between June and September 2019 led the international research group to provide a more nuanced view of how the wide range of mobile content is being used – led by Youtube, music apps, Instagram and Snapchat – before young people’s bedtime.
“Many teenagers struggle with a racing mindset when sleep isn’t easy,” says corresponding lead author Dr. Serena Bauducco, visiting postdoctoral researcher from Örebro University, Sweden.
“This study shows that many teens use technology to distract themselves from negative thoughts, which can help them manage the process of falling asleep. Thus, distraction may be a mechanism explaining how sleep affects technology use, rather than the other way around,” the study concludes.
The majority of the 631 teens surveyed used technology to distract themselves from negative or distressing thoughts, with 23.6% answering “yes” and 38.4% “sometimes”, according to the study published in the journal. sleep advances (Oxford Academic).
However, the study found a higher tendency to use the apps among young people with existing sleep problems compared to those who do not report a sleep problem, leading the researchers to warn that other solutions are needed to help teenagers fall asleep.
Passive entertainment, via music apps or Youtube music videos, or interacting with peers via Instagram or Snapchat were seen as the most popular distractions.
The first author of the study, Ms Alexandra Daniels, a psychology graduate from Flinders University, explains that the complex relationship between sleep and technology is illustrated by the tendency of some adolescents with sleep problems to use more frequently devices before going to bed.
“This study helps provide evidence to suggest that the relationship between adolescents, technology, and sleep is much more complex than the previously accepted idea that technology use prior to falling asleep is always negative and harmful,” she says.
South Australian child and adolescent sleep expert Professor Michael Gradisar, who devised the idea behind the study, says research suggests recommendations for targeted use of certain apps could become an integral part of routines of sleep of some teenagers, to help them regulate their negative thoughts. .
Professor Gradisar, a sleep psychology graduate from Flinders University, who now focuses on a range of technologies as head of sleep science at Sleep Cycle in Sweden, says good sleep habits from infancy through adolescence are important for establishing healthy sleep routines into adulthood.
Respondents in the study were asked which app was likely to distract them from any negative or distressing thoughts – messaging, phone calls, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Youtube, Reddit, Tumblr and Spotify/iTunes/Apple Music, Netflix/Stan, Viber/WhatsApp, game app, audiobook or “other”.
Respondents reported multiple technology preferences, including mobile phone, iPad, laptop, desktop computer, iPod/MP3 player, TV, game console, or “other.”
Researchers note the recent surge in popularity of TikTok and other apps in a rapidly evolving field.
A previous study in sleep medicine by Flinders University researchers, the use of phones, laptops and game consoles by high school students in the hour before bedtime, or in bed before falling asleep, was associated with an increased likelihood lack of sleep during school nights.
“Party technology use should be monitored for achievable limits and minimization of harm, as technology will remain an integral part of teen parties,” they conclude.
The National Sleep Foundations recommends teens ages 14 to 17 get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.
About this neurodevelopment and sleep research news
Author: Tanya Bawden
Source: flinders university
Contact: Tania Bawden – Flinders University
Picture: Image is in public domain
Original research: Free access.
“Using technology as a sleep aid: do adolescents use apps to distract themselves from negative thoughts?” by Serena Bauducco et al. SLEEP advances
Using technology as a sleep aid: Do teens use apps to distract themselves from negative thoughts?
The purpose of this study was to; (1) explore whether adolescents use technology to distract themselves from negative thoughts before sleep, (2) assess whether adolescents who perceive a sleep problem use technology more as a distraction compared to adolescents who do not complain about sleep , and (3) gather qualitative information about the devices and apps teens use as a distraction.
This study used a cross-sectional mixed-methods design, where 684 adolescents (M = 15.1, South Dakota = 1.2, 46% of women) answered quantitative and qualitative questions about their sleep (perceived sleep problem, time of falling asleep (SOT) and sleep latency (SOL)) and the use of technology to distract from negative thoughts.
The majority of teens said “yes” or “sometimes” to using technology to distract themselves from negative thoughts (23.6% and 38.4%). Teens who answered “yes” to using technology as a distraction were more likely to report having a sleep problem, longer SOL, and later SOT, compared to teens who answered “no.” The most popular device for distraction was the phone, due to its availability, and the most commonly used apps for distraction included YouTube, Snapchat, and music apps.
This study shows that many teens use technology to distract themselves from negative thoughts, which can help them manage the process of falling asleep. Thus, distraction may be a mechanism explaining how sleep affects technology use, rather than the other way around.