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Effect on Sleep in Post-Graduate Online Distance Learners

Abstract on Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool in the contemporary era that is used by individuals and the corporates. Its wide presence across the world and useful features enable it to spread a message to the masses. It is used to interact with friend, family, acquaintances and even the customers of the brands. However, there are some negative impacts of social media such as sleep disorder, anxiety, depression, loneliness and many more. A study conducted by students of ‘Qualitative Research Methods’ subject at Glasgow University, on the topic called ‘How do post-graduate online distance learners perceive the effects of social media on their sleep patterns?’. Three participants from MSc Psychology (distance-learning) involved in a 30-minute focus group research, conducted via online meeting platform Zoom. During the study, they were asked a series of questions about their social media usage and their quality of sleep. According to the information gathered from the participants, it has demonstrated that social media usage before sleep has effects on the quality of sleep. This research addresses the research question: “What is the perception of post-graduate online distance learner toward the effect of social media usage on their sleep pattern?”.

Introduction to Social Media

The Importance of Sleep

Healthy sleep makes us be able to obtain information in the right state of mind throughout the day. Watson et al. (2012) mentioned that sleep can be considered as an important biological function which is good for physiologic rest and emotional well-being. Sleep plays an important role in the modulation of emotional fluctuations and metabolic processes (Fayaz, 2019). In light of this statement, poor sleep quality might cause problems related to our physical health and mental health. After reviewing the published scientific studies on sleep and health, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) announced its new recommendations about ‘recommended durations of sleep”. In the recommendation, it was stated that adults who are between 26-64 years should have 7-9 hours’ sleep daily (National Sleep Foundation, 2015).

Although the proper sleep is among the primary needs of the human body like other needs such as breathing, eating and drinking. Proper sleep can help an individual to stay fit and healthy and also helps in mitigating the risk of mental health deterioration. Therefore, every human on the planet is in dire need of good sleep to lead a healthy life eventually. Deficiency in sleep can cause problems like mental and physical health issues along with loss in productivity and concentration ability. The feeling that a person gets after sleep majorly depends on the factor, the quality of the sleep taken. While sleeping, the body of a human works to improve the brain function, retain the physical health and support the development and growth. Healthy sleep is also beneficial for the good memory and remembering ability of the people and also enhances the problem-solving ability. Considering the benefits of physical health, it reduces the risk of obesity and repairs the heart and blood vessel. Sleep maintains the balance of two important hormones known as ghrelin and leptin responsible for feelings of hungry or full respectively.

Deep sleep makes the body to release the hormone that facilitates the growth, boost muscles, repairs cells and tissues including roles in puberty and fertility. The immune system that is responsible for digestion is also affected by the sleep and in some cases, it even leads to microsleep. Microsleep is a stage where a person being awakened gets a brief sleep of short periods like a few seconds. In such sleep, the person does not even remember the experiences or realizes that it happened. Several factors make a person sleep or awake. There is an internal clock that has 24-hour repeating rhythm known as the circadian rhythm. This is rhythm is controlled by two processes, the first one is the pressure built every hour. As a result, a cumulative pressure built which is called adenosine and it forces someone to sleep and increment in this, push the person toward sleep. The second process is the internal body clock that responds toward the different environment like darkness and light. When there is darkness it releases a chemical called melatonin that appeals for sleep. if there is a light then hormone cortisol that gives a signal to keeps wake up.

Quality of Sleep

Low variability in sleep duration is the key to better subjective quality and higher levels of subjective well-being (Sakari, 2013). According to the article from The National Sleep Foundation, it has also been mentioned that quality sleep includes the following elements,

  • It is important to have at least 85% of the total sleep time while they are in bed.
  • Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less is one of the attributes that make good quality sleep.
  • If people wake up for more than once per night, it will be the element that affects the quality of sleep.
  • During sleep, time for being awake should be less than 20 minutes.

People might just care about the total hours in sleep in instead of the quality of sleep. Rafael (2016) mentioned that the amount of sleep is just one part of the whole sleep health. The quality of sleep, however, should be considered as the most important part. Comparing with the sleep quantity, quality of sleep is more difficult to be measured objectively. Hence, Rafael (2016) also mentioned that the quality of sleep is a subjective experience accordingly.

Importance of Social Media

In simpler terms, social media can be referred to as the platform either a website or an application that enables its users to interact with others and share their thoughts or feeling on the platform. It is helpful for people to build their network or form a community of the like-minded people to participate in various activity on various platforms. It encompasses a range of websites and application for both PCs and mobiles including different operating systems such as Window, Android, IOS and some others. Each social media has different purposes and its users vary in nature. However, this platform has some restriction on kind of posts to be made by users and some have restriction over the minimum age criteria for users. Majority of the contents created on such platforms are created by the users itself and enable a high number of contents on the platform for the free of costs. Since its inception, these platforms have shown tremendous growth and popularity among its users. Now, gradually it has become an integrated part of the life of everyone consisting from teenage to old age group. 

Social media has many advantages and disadvantages and it is perceived differently by different people. The platform often used by the student that forms a significant part of the entire users. Students across the world use social media to post their thoughts, photographs, video or other such things and share it with their friends or at the group. Many of the students get hooked while using and they spend more than hours unintentionally. Social media is very effective in seeking attention and distracting someone from their work and it is also influencing the mind of the students. The notification of likes or comment on post often triggers student to check their post on social media and this act of checking notification making the students habitual of using it. Such a habit is affecting the concentration ability of the student and their study that eventually affecting the academic performance. Moreover, the usage of social media until the night is also disturbing the sleep pattern of such students.

Relationship Between Social Media and Sleep

Usage of social media pre-sleep has become a norm now and many people across the age group are habitual of this. Some people feel that it gives the feeling of relaxation by using mobile phones while lying on the bed but in reality, the usage of social media has a negative effect. The way of looking into the screen of the mobile also affect sleep quality. Mobile phones emit the blue-ray light that stops someone from falling asleep because the bright light sends the signal that it is the time to be awake. Moreover, in the night the natural light level decreases and it produces the hormone called melatonin which triggers to falling sleep. However, the blue light produced from mobile phones affects the level of the melatonin production and it eventually causes a delay in sleep. In the absence of the melatonin, the human body does not feel the sleep and shift to a stage called cognitive arousal.

In the same manner, when a person goes to bed the brain starts preparing for the sleep. However, using social media before falling asleep it will make the person stay on the social media platform for a longer period and this way time is passed and sleep gets delayed. Even after the person put the phone aside, it takes longer to fall asleep and this delay overall affects the sleep quality. Jessica (2016) has researched the association between social media use and sleep disturbance among young adults. Some highlights were demonstrated within the reports. Firstly, 75% of the research sample experienced disturbance of sleep. Average time spent on social media was about 61 min/day. Additionally, greater social media use related to sleep disturbance. Social networking sites dependencies were related to low sleep quality and cognitive function. (Niko, 2015) People claim that their sleep duration is decreasing due to the usage of social media. (Jean M. 2017) According to the above statements, it is evident that the more one uses social media, the more likely one is to experience poor sleep.

Methods of Effects of Social Media 

There two popular types of data for conducting research that is known as primary data and secondary data. The primary data are the one that contains the first-hand information and such data are the most reliable but expensive. However, the secondary data contains second-hand information that was already collected by the third party for their purpose. Under each of these research, there are two types of data that qualitative data and quantitative data. The qualitative data aims to obtain insights about what and why of any topic through conversational and open-ended communication. Whereas the quantitative method aims to get the insight about the through a systematic empirical approach of quantifiable data or phenomena by performing computational, mathematical or statistical technique. In this report, the qualitative method has been considered to gather better insight into the research by focus group study.

Qualitative Study via Focus Group (by Group 14 - Hailey O’Hara, Jing HE, Grace Dobson)

The focus group was synchronous and held via Zoom application after been tested to work across different operating systems and time zones. To make the participants familiar with the conference software, instructions regarding setting up an account and operating Zoom was shared with the participants. The time zones of participants were established and a possible mutual time to hold the study was explored. Doodle is the tool for participants to vote for the time that might be the most convenient for them. After the date and time was confirmed by the participants, the group facilitator sent out the formal invitation to participants. For ethical consideration, information and consent form were shared with participants via email. They were requested to sign and return a digital or photocopied signature to confirms their acceptance of terms. Participants were allowed to withdraw their consent at any time. A reminder was sent to remind about the start and end of the focus group session. Participants were also requested to ensure that they are in a quiet room during the session and no distractions were expected. They were also asked to test their video and audio quality before the focus group session. Facilitator is the one who asks questions related to the research project. All the questions are designed and arranged to investigate ‘How do post-graduate online distance learners perceive the effects of social media on their sleep patterns?’

Results of Effects of Social Media 

After analyzing the response collected from the respondents, followings are the findings that have been found 

  • Duration of social media usage is impacted by online learning.
  • Majority of the online learner does not use social media at night
  • Facebook and Instagram are the two major platforms of social media used by the participants
  • Majority of the people keep mobile phone beside or nearby the bed while sleeping
  • Social media usage before sleep affect the sleep of the majority of the participants
  • Majority of the participants have admitted that using social media before sleep keep them stay longer in the night and cause trouble in the sleep.
  • All the participants want to alter their pattern of using social media to improve their sleep quality.

Discussion on Effects of Social Media 

This study aims to analyze how post-graduate online distance learners perceive the effect of social media use on their sleep latency. By analyzing the interview of 3 participants, it is found that they all agree with the fact that the use of social media before bed influences their sleep and sleep quality. Followings are the common statements that can be made based on the responses collected

Long-Distance Learners Spend Less Time on Social Media, Such as Instagram and Facebook

According to the answers from participants, it has been shown that all of them acknowledge that they all spend more time on long-distance study tool (Microsoft Teams) rather than Instagram and Face book. One of the participants realized that more time online would be needed to get all tasks done (long-distance learning program), and therefore she disabled Facebook which might cause temptation. Moreover, Hasnain, Nasreen and Ijaz (2015) has stated that social media has an impact on the academic performance of the students and many of them score average or below average. Also, it affects their concentration ability in the class or during the lecture. Therefore, it is important to use social media for a limited period or even quit using. Hence, the idea of reducing the usage of social media by online learner is beneficial for their study or academic performance.

Long Distance Learners Have Strong Self-Control About Using Social Media in The Late Evening and Night

Surprisingly, all the participants are not using social media during the night. Two participants mentioned that keep scrolling the screen while using social media is wasting time. Therefore, they disable Instagram and Facebook and found it was effective. Instead of using social media, one of the participants mentioned that she prefers to watch TV or Netflix on the iPad. Granger (2014), also stated that pushing off the notification of the social is a very effective tool to overcome the social media overuse. Also, the users should have enough courage and patience to stick with this for a longer period and eventually it will work. Thus, the decision of pushing off notification and avoiding social media at night or late evening can bring significant change.

Participants Keep Mobile Devices in Their Bedroom at Night, but Not for Using Social Media

All the participants are keeping their phones beside their beds for other purposes, such as emergencies, alarm clock and watch TV but not all for using social media. Adachi et al. (2014) conducted a similar study to find the people going to bed with a mobile phone. As a result of the research, they found that around 62.9% of the participants keep phone beside or with them while sleeping. Out of all participants, 56.8% of them keep it turn on while sleeping and around half them or 45.7% use it as the alarm device. While 36.7% reported that they text even after going on the bed and 7.9% of them get awakened by the inward text. So both the study reflects that people are keeping cell phones with them on the bed while sleeping. However, not everyone taking a phone with them are using social media but have different purposes.

Participants Used to Have Problems of Overusing Social Media and Therefore Having an Impact on Falling Asleep or Quality of Sleep

2/3 participants have mentioned that using social media at night caused problems for their sleep and mood. Especially, when they kept scrolling on the main page of Instagram and Facebook, they did not realize time went fast. BBC (2019) stated that using social media for extensive hours cause poor sleep and also resulting in body-clock changes. It is not just impacting their sleep patterns but also their relationship with friends and family. Even in some cases, it is also causing depression and other such effects on the users. Therefore, social media use very engagingly and addictive which causing many troubles including sleep quality.

References for Effects of Social Media

Adachi-Mejia, A. M., Edwards, P. M., Gilbert-Diamond, D., Greenough, G. P., & Olson, A. L. (2014). Txt me I'm only sleeping: adolescents with mobile phones in their bedroom. Family & community health, 37(4), 252-257.

Center for Disease Control (CDC). (2013, May). Health behaviors of adults: United States, 2008–2010 (Vital and Health Statistics, Series 10, Number 257). National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_257.pdf

Granger, S. (2014). The Digital Mystique: How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life Online and Off. Seal Press.

Hasnain, H., Nasreen, A., & Ijaz, H. (2015). Impact of social media usage on academic performance of university students. In 2nd International Research Management & Innovation Conference (IRMIC).

Health. (2019). Heavy social media use linked to poor sleep. [Online] BBC. [Retrieved from] https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50140111 [Accessed on] 20th June 2020.

Hirshkowitz M. Whiton K. Albert S.M. et al. National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. 2015; 1: 40-43

Kaimal, D., Sajja, R. T., & Sasangohar, F. (2017). Investigating the Effects of Social Media Usage on Sleep Quality. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 61(1), 1327–1330. doi:10.1177/1541931213601814

Levenson, J. C., Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., & Primack, B. A. (2016). The association between social media use and sleep disturbance among young adults. Preventive Medicine, 85, 36–41. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.01.001

Maurice O, Emerson M. W, Max H, Steven M. A, Alon A, Frank J.D, Yves D, Raffaele F, Constance F, David G, Nancy H, Anfrew K, Kenneth L, Monica M, Giuseppe P, Robert R, Frank A. Virend S, Michael.V.V (2016) National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Quality Recommendations: First Report ; Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of National Sleep Foundation; https://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218(16)30130-9/abstract

Mir, F. A., Jha, S. K., & Jha, V. M. (2019). The role of sleep in homeostatic regulation of ionic balances and its implication in cognitive functions. In Sleep, Memory and Synaptic Plasticity (pp. 77-106). Springer, Singapore.

National Sleep Foundation. (2015). Bedroom poll. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/NSF_Bedroom_Poll_Report.pdf

Rafael P (2016) Commentary on National Sleep Foundation sleep quality recommendations Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep FoundationVol. 3Issue 1

Sakari L, Thomas L, Elliot M. F, (2013) Variability of Sleep Duration Is Related to Subjective Sleep Quality and Subjective Well-being: An Actigraphy Study. Public Library of Science PLoS ONE (Vol. 8, Iuuse 8)

Twenge, J. M., Krizan, Z., & Hisler, G. (2017). Decreases in self-reported sleep duration among U.S. adolescents 2009–2015 and association with new media screen time. Sleep Medicine, 39, 47–53. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2017.08.013

Watson, P. L., Ceriana, P., & Fanfulla, F. (2012). Delirium: Is sleep important? Best Practice & Research Clinical Anaesthesiology, 26(3), 355–366. doi:10.1016/j.bpa.2012.08.005

Remember, at the center of any academic work, lies clarity and evidence. Should you need further assistance, do look up to our Digital Media Assignment Help

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