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Social Media Use By Teenagers And Lack Of Sleep

There are so many things we worry about for our children. My high school age daughter just left for China on Wednesday for a live abroad program, and a thousand possibilities have run through my mind, most of them very positive, but a few caused me concern. One of them was social media use by teenagers and lack of sleep. I worry that her sleep may be impacted because of the time difference and her desire to stay connected with local friends in real-time. I know there are lots of things I can worry about, but as her dad and The Sleep Doctor, that was one of them!

As parents, we often worry that our children spend too much time on social media, New research indicates social media in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. The problem revolves around usage. 

Researchers found that teenagers who check their social media account three or more times a day were more likely to experience psychological distress. Girls were more likely to feel this distress than boys. 

The lead researcher on this study said that is was “biologically implausible for social media to negatively affect one gender and not the other.” This means that the psychological distress almost certainly comes from something related to social media and not from general social media use. 

Loss of sleep, not enough exercise and cyber-bullying were suspected as the likely sources of this distress, although more research is needed to be certain. 

I have previously written about how social media usage can disrupt sleep in teenagers and even adults. The most frequent users have nearly twice the risk of sleep disruptions and three times the risk of sleep disturbances that the least frequent users do. College students who check their social sites during the hours they would otherwise be sleeping suffer from cognitive impairment. There have also been previous links to anxiety and depression from heavy social media use.

My guide for social media and sleep balance is short, easy to use and effective. 

  1. Phones should be charged outside the bedroom where the buzzing and the light cannot affect sleep
  2. Your kids should be done using social media at least one hour before bed. If forming this habit proves complicated, slowly wean your kids off social media in five-minute increments. 
  3. Instead of using electronic devices at night, try and get your kids to do some light reading or engage in other restful activities before bed. 
  4. Keep your kids’ phones somewhere out of reach, so they can’t look at them if they get up to go to the bathroom. Adults too should avoid checking their phones if they want better sleep or at minimum, use blue light blocking glasses

What Your Sleep Position Says About You 

There are three kinds of people in this world: Those who sleep on their backs, those who sleep on their sides and those who sleep on their stomachs, according to an amusing survey

The survey examined the sleeping habits and personalities of 2,000 Americans and the results were pretty fun and surprising. 

Back Sleepers

  • Fell asleep the fastest, taking only 20 minutes on average
  • Sleep about 5.5 hours per night, getting the least amount of sleep 
  • Most likely to be introverted
  • Most likely to be an early bird
  • Predisposition toward enjoying the TV program “Modern Family”
  • Most likely to talk in sleep, sleepwalk and have vivid dreams and nightmares

Side Sleepers

  • Are the slowest to fall asleep (about 24 minutes) 
  • But sleeps the longest (almost 6 hours) 
  • Most likely to be outgoing
  • Most likely to stay up late
  • Preference for the classic TV show “Friends” 

Stomach Sleepers

  • The ‘middle child’ of sleepers 
  • They take about 23 minutes to fall asleep
  • They sleep for about 5.7 hours a night 
  • Most likely to be both a night owl and an early bird
  • Most likely to be an ambivert (a person who shows a balanced mix of introvert and extrovert traits)
  • Enjoys spooky and supernatural shows like the “Handmaid’s Tale,” “the Walking Dead” and “Stranger Things.”


The survey also covered the sleep habits of married couples. Did you know that 55% of married couples changed their sleep pattern once they began sleeping together regularly? Some expressed sleep-related frustration with their partner, usually due to snoring, tossing and turning or getting up in the middle of the night. Sound familiar? This might be one of the reasons that married people take about twenty-four minutes to fall asleep on average. 

Despite these frustrations, there seems to be benefits to sleeping next to your spouse. Seventy-five percent of married respondents said they prefer sharing a bed with their significant other. Those who slept in the spoon position reported fewer frustrations when compared to those partners who slept facing away.  

I’ve talked about sleep positions before. My attitude is that if you have a sleep preference, that’s the right one for you as long as you take any health issues into consideration. Even though I live in Los Angeles, I can’t criticize your choice of television shows though!

Say Cheese! You’re Being Diagnosed for Sleep Apnea 

Can you imagine seeing your sleep doctor and them taking a 3D picture to determine whether or not you have obstructive sleep apnea? How cool would that be? Researchers in Australia have done it and even shown it to be 90% effective in diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea! The researchers published their findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 

Prior studies have looked at the structure of the face, neck and head as a means to determine a person’s risk of sleep apnea. The new 3D technology uses those craniofacial markers to predict that risk. Diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea with 3D photography would allow doctors to fast track at-risk patients for referrals and treatments. This is critical as sleep apnea is a serious condition and worsens many conditions including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and more. The easier, faster, and more cost effective it becomes to diagnose, the more people we can help.

Until the technology is widely available, we’ll still have to diagnose sleep apnea the “old-fashioned” way. Here are a few warning signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. 

  • Snoring
  • Choking, Gasping During Sleep
  • Morning Headaches
  • Tired After Sleeping a Full Night
  • Dry or Sore Throat in Morning
  • Morning Anxiety
  • Waking Up with Pain in Muscles or Joints
  • Brain Fog
  • Forgetfulness
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Reduce Interest in Sex 

If you experience any of these, especially snoring and choking or gasping for air during sleep, please see a sleep professional to find out if you have sleep apnea, it is easy to treat and can add years to your life while helping you feel and function better throughout the day.

The Truth About Eating Before Bedtime

Self did a rather fine article on the long-held belief that eating before bedtime can disrupt sleep. Just how long-held are these beliefs? Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1843. That story has one of the best puns in all literature, and it is a pun about eating before going to bed. When Ebeneezer Scrooge first encounters Jacob Marley’s ghost he tells the ghost that he thinks that his late-night snack is the actual source of his troubles: 

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

If Scrooge was prone to bouts of indigestion, then he wasn’t totally wrong to suspect his ghostly visitor is a byproduct of a late-night snack. Indigestion is less likely to cause someone to hallucinate the ghost of their deceased business partner and more likely to cause pain, bloating or nausea, but it was a very good attempt by Scrooge to rationalize the inexplicable. 

Another problem late-night snackers may face is acid reflux. Some people have a valve in their esophagus that doesn’t close all the way. When they go to lie down for the night, stomach acid flows painfully back up, making it hard to sleep, 

However, if you do not suffer from either of those conditions, there aren’t really any other drawbacks to enjoying a bedtime snack. Some people worry that if they eat later in the day, they are more likely to gain weight. While mice studies show that eating counter to their circadian rhythm caused weight gain, the human study data is insufficient evidence to conclusively say the same holds true for humans who eat a balanced diet within their caloric needs range 

I think it is important to pay attention to what happens with your body if you eat late. If it works for you, go ahead and do it as long as it doesn’t aggravate any underlying health concerns or cause other negative issues.” That is to say that if you routinely enjoy a late-night snack and do not suffer from acid reflux or indigestion, you’re probably fine to continue with your nightly ritual. However, it is best to eat a light, low-fat snack and stay away from any foods that might upset your stomach like spicy bbq, hot sausages, jalapeno poppers and all alcohol. 

Q: Should My Sheets Be Tucked into the Mattress or Should the Sheets Be Left Untucked? Will It Affect My Sleep? 

Today’s question is ripped right from the headlines. Apparently, there was a debate on the Today Show about whether it was better to sleep with the sheets tucked under the bottom of the mattress or left untucked. 

My answer to this age-old conundrum might surprise you: Like your choice of sleep position, you should do what you prefer and allows for a good night of sleep. Back sleepers, for example, may not prefer tightly tucked sheets at the bottom of the bed because it pulls their toes down which may be annoying or uncomfortable. Whether you enjoy the constrained feeling of a tucked-in sheet or the billowy freedom of one that loosely draped over the mattress, what really matters is that you are as comfortable as possible. 


The two factors that are more important than the tucked or untucked state of your bedsheets are the fabrics that you sleep beneath and the temperature of where you are sleeping. I recommend natural fabrics like cotton, wool or flannel. They are all breathable and help you regulate your body temperature. 

Cooler temperatures are preferable for sleep with the optimum temperature being 65 degrees fahrenheit (18 degrees celsius). It’s easy to turn your thermostat down and call it a night, but when we’re beneath our sheets and comforters, we’re going to be warmer than the air around us, warm enough sometimes to disrupt sleep. 

I recommend the Chilipad to many of my patients. It’s a great way of regulating your body’s temperature and mattress’s temperature during the night. It’s also adjustable for individuals, so if your partner likes it cold and you need it warmer, then the Chilipad can be programmed to accommodate both sleepers, possibly saving marriages in the process. 

Sweet Dreams,
Dr Michael Breus

Dr. Michael Breus

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Dr. Michael Breus

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