Young people have access to avenues of communication and entertainment that previous generations never had. The internet has opened up a new world of social activities, games, and other forms of online interaction that was not available in years past. The unending stream of information available on the internet and its 24-hour-a-day access makes it highly attractive to young people. Facebook in particular has become a favorite way for young people to keep in touch with family and friends, share pictures, and update the world on their thoughts. The majority of young people today use the internet and social media on a regular basis, but at what cost? Although there has been some research conducted demonstrating the negative effects of internet addiction, less is known about how Facebook use specifically affects young adults’ psychological well-being through disrupted sleep.
Isabella Wolniczak of the School of Medicine at the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas in Peru recently led a study examining how Facebook use affected sleep in young people. Sleep is critically important and helps improve cognitive and physical functioning. When sleep is impaired, it can negatively affect not only mood and daytime alertness, but also academic performance, social interactions, and overall well-being. People who develop internet dependence may isolate and refrain from real-world activities, which can increase their risk of negative outcomes.
Wolniczak looked at the Facebook use and sleep patterns of 418 students and found that more than half of them had sleep problems. Of all the students who used Facebook, 8.6% were found to have a dependence on Facebook, similar to internet addiction. This meant that those dependent on Facebook were 1.3 times more likely to have impaired sleep than those who used Facebook casually. The most significant negative consequences of Facebook use was found in daytime functioning. Other risks not explored in this study include excessive exposure to negative material, online predator contact and lack of privacy through public domains. Overall, the results of Wolniczak’s study show that young adults with Facebook dependency, and even many casual users, are experiencing sleep disturbances as a result. She added, “We suggest further studies to corroborate these findings and develop strategies to moderate the use of this social network and to improve sleep quality in this population.”
Wolniczak, I., Cáceres-DelAguila, J.A., Palma-Ardiles, G., Arroyo, K.J., Solís-Visscher, R., et al. (2013). Association between Facebook dependence and poor sleep quality: A study in a sample of undergraduate students in Peru. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59087. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059087
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