Mobile phone use at night ‘affecting young people’s sleep’

File photo dated 03/01/2018 of a person using a mobile phone. Teenagers who spend more than three hours a day on social media
File photo dated 03/01/2018 of a person using a mobile phone. Teenagers who spend more than three hours a day on social media may be at higher risk of mental health problems, a large study has found.

Using mobile phones at night-time is having a negative impact on young people’s sleeping patterns and mental well-being, according to a new report.

Social media in particular has a negative influence on sleep quality, Scottish Government-commissioned research by the University of Glasgow found.

The study also suggested night-time mobile use and “problematic social media use” were linked to depressed moods through experiences of poor sleep.

Online bullying was also noted as being directly linked to shorter sleep because of obsessing about distressing thoughts and emotions.

Mental health minister Clare Haughey said: “There are many positive things about technology, screens and social media.

“However, in a society where so many young people have access to a mobile device and social media platforms, it is important that we get an accurate picture of the impact that can have on their sense of emotional well-being and their ability to get a proper and uninterrupted sleep.

“Of course it’s not just young people who have a phone or tablet by the side of their bed every night but this research shows the potentially negative impact on children and young people.”

She added: “This review is a significant piece of work that gives us a much better insight into the connections between screen time, particularly social media use, and disrupted sleep.

“While the evidence base is still developing, the findings demonstrate why, in February last year, we announced that we would be providing advice, specific to Scotland, on the healthy use of social media and screen time.

“That advice – being co-produced by young people and for young people – will be published in spring and will add to the help and guidance available to help ensure young people can lead healthier lives.”

Ms Haughey welcomed the report during a visit to a sleep awareness session run by Sleep Scotland at Montessori Arts School in Edinburgh.

Karen Jenkinson, interim chief executive of the charity, said: “Poor sleep is a huge problem in our society, and excessive screen time is a contributing factor, leading to increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

“It’s time to wake up to the importance of sleep for our health and well-being.”

Dr Justin Williams, vice-chair of the CAHMS faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: “Poor sleep does not only affect mood, energy levels and concentration – fatigue can also alter eating behaviour which can aggravate obesity and increase substance misuse.

“This study from Glasgow University highlights the point that getting a good sleep routine is one of the most important ways to maintain both mental and physical health, especially when the brain is developing during adolescence.”

The report – Systematic literature review of the relationship between adolescents’ screen time, sleep and mental health – can be found online.

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