Does it matter if some children get more sleep than others?
Research suggests that 1 in 5 students lose sleep because of social media use during the night. Young people regularly wake up in the night to send or check messages on social media, according to new research published today in the Journal of Youth Studies. This night-time activity is making teenagers three times more likely to feel constantly tired at school than their peers who do not log on at night, and could be affecting their happiness and well-being.
Does it matter if some children get more sleep than others? Does it matter if some have regular routines or look at their social media platforms in the night? An important consideration of sleep and sleeplessness is not only the volume of hours spent in bed, but the transitional arrangements of retiring and rising.
Over 900 pupils, aged between 12-15 years, were recruited and asked to complete a questionnaire about how often they woke up at night to use social media and times of going to bed and waking. They were also asked about how happy they were with various aspects of their life including school life, friendships and appearance.
1 in 5 reported ‘almost always’ waking up to log on, with girls much more likely to access their social media accounts during the night than boys. Those who woke up to use social media nearly every night, or who didn’t wake up at a regular time in the morning, were around three times as likely to say they were constantly tired at school compared to their peers who never log on at night or wake up at the same time every day. Moreover, pupils who said they were always tired at school were, on average, significantly less happy than other young people.
- Figure 1: Approximate number of hours in bed on school night.
- Figure 2: Approximate number of hours in bed by ethnicity (cohorts combined).
- Figure 3: Approximate number of hours in bed by FSM eligibility (cohorts combined).
- Figure 4: Bedtime (last night) by cohort.
- Figure 5: Frequency of use of social media in the night.
- Figure 6: How often do you go to school feeling tired?
You can expand the dataset below.
The research also suggests that Free School Meals students spend less time in bed than their non-FSM-eligible counterparts. The research shows that a small but significant number of children and young people say that they often go to school feeling tired – and these are the same young people who also have the lowest levels of well-being.
The research shows the significance of the social arrangements that surround sleep are complex and as yet only poorly understood. These social arrangements include the extent to which young people’s transitions into and out of sleep are routinised, and how much social media ‘intrude’ into the night-time. These routines and resources themselves are likely to reflect broader socio-economic inequalities.
Unravelling these relationships is an important research task if we are to understand and address the circumstances which appear to jeopardise young people’s well-being. If sleep is remission from the ‘daily toil’ of school, it is surely important to ensure that all young people experience its benefits.
The study findings support growing concerns about young people’s night-time use of social media. However, because of the complex range of possible explanations for tiredness at school, further larger studies will be needed before any firm conclusions can be made about the social causes and consequences of sleep deprivation among today’s youth.
You can download the full research paper here.
This paper is based on research supported by the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, between the Universities of Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, South Wales and Swansea. Thank you to Taylor & Francis Group for sharing the information.