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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Anita Pee and Dr Angelica L Dumapit on February 1, 2023

Sleep Hygiene Tips To Reduce Your Social Media Usage

Social media can lead to disruptions in your circadian rhythm, causing sleep-related problems, burnout at work, and even anxiety and depression. Learn how to kick the habit and improve your sleep hygiene here.

Social media at night min scaled

The more you use social media, the harder it is to establish good sleep hygiene. That’s according to several recent studies showing a link between social media usage and sleep disorders.

Thanks to smartphones and other devices, users have access to social media whenever they want. However, research shows that most of us scroll at night.

According to one poll, more than 70% of people reported using social media after getting into bed. Almost 15% stayed on for at least an hour.

Doing so can lead to disruptions in our circadian rhythm due to blue light, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. It also causes anxiety and a need to stay connected to social happenings.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to kick the social media habit before bed and establish good sleep hygiene once and for all. Here’s how.

How Does Social Media Affect Sleep?

A woman lying in bed scrolling through her phone at night
Social media can lead to the fear of missing out, or a compulsion to be socially connected at all times.

Social media is highly addictive. In fact, compulsive social media use has become so widespread that the term “fear of missing out” (FOMO) has been introduced in medical literature to describe it.

FOMO describes two processes. First, the idea of missing out on news and social events, followed by a compulsive need to stay connected to these events.

This causes us to check social media constantly, leading to issues with our mental health, social functioning, sleep, academic performance, productivity, and physical well-being.

One study found that young people who are excessively active on social media have higher levels of anxiety, depression, and poor sleep quality.

Professionals, too, can experience work-related burnout due to sleep disturbances after compulsive social media use.

Social media and the circadian rhythm

The need to stay connected to social media, especially at night, causes disruptions in our circadian rhythm. This is our body’s internal clock that regulates our sleep cycle and tells us when it’s time to fall asleep and wake up.

The concept of the sleep cycle is based on the 2007 guidelines of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). However, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees it differently.

In TCM, the sleep-and-awake cycle is regulated by the continuous circulation of wei qi (protective qi). It is believed that wei qi travels in yang by day and in yin at night. When yang is depleting, yin will be in fullness, leading to sleepiness. And vice versa; when yin is at its end, yang will be abundant, resulting in wakefulness. 

This process can also explain insomnia and its remedies. TCM views insomnia as the consequence of an excess of yang or fire in the Heart and Liver.

This is why TCM physicians usually prescribe medicines that reduce Fire and nourish the yin when treating insomnia.

3 Ways To Reduce Social Media Use And Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

A young woman wearing headphones and meditating in bed
Meditating and listening to music at night can help you sleep and reduce the urge to check social media.

The first step to improving your sleep hygiene if you are a nocturnal social media user is to establish a bedtime routine that doesn’t involve electronics. This can help cut out the temptation to check social media at night.

Then, find healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety levels that make you feel like you need to check social media all the time.

1. Get serious about setting a regular sleep schedule  

One of the first things to focus on is going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, ideally at a time that matches your natural circadian rhythm.

In TCM, while wei qi circulates the body, it goes through the meridians (the channels where our qi, blood, and body fluids move). 

Wei qi does this 25 times along yang meridians during daytime and then 25 more times throughout yin meridians at night-time.

Using the meridian clock as a basis, we can determine the best time to sleep according to TCM, which is by 11 pm. Staying up past 11 pm prevents the regeneration of Liver yin and blood.

Along with going to bed on time, practice good sleep hygiene by leaving electronics out of the bedroom. Avoid exposure to blue light approximately two hours before bed as this can suppress melatonin production and make it harder to fall asleep.

2. Find healthy ways to manage anxiety

FOMO is often driven by anxiety and the need to feel socially connected at all times. Research shows that people with FOMO are more likely to check their social media within 15 minutes of going to bed, significantly contributing to sleep issues.

Finding healthy ways to reduce this anxiety can help cut down on these urges to check social media. This can help improve your sleep hygiene and ensure better rest.

  • Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and certain medicines close to bedtime. As these different substances enter your system, they can interfere with your body’s natural wind-down phase at night, hours before you should be going to sleep. 
  • Sour jujube seed (Suan Zao Ren) is a common TCM herb that physicians use in insomnia treatments. It nourishes the Liver and Heart, calms the mind, and helps with the management of physical symptoms brought about by stress. 
  • Atractylodes rhizome (Bai Zhu) and red dates are beneficial for nourishing the Spleen, Heart, and blood, as well as calming the mind.
  • Lingzhi helps bring down cortisol levels to reduce anxiety by hijacking the body’s stress response. It has also been shown to help improve sleep.

You can also consider taking an herbal sleep supplement before bed to calm the mind, relieve insomnia, and reduce anxiety.

3. Consider adding acupuncture to your sleep hygiene routine

“Acupuncture helps relax the body, calm the mind, and promote smooth qi and blood circulation. Most people tend to sleep better after acupuncture treatments and can wake up feeling refreshed to start the day,” TCM Physician Anita Pee shares.

Physician Pee shares some acupressure points to help you get restful sleep: 

  • Yin Tang (GV29)
  • Nei Guan (PC6)
  • Tai Chong (LR3)
  • Shen Men (HT7)
  • An Mian (EXHN)

Massage each of these points for three to five minutes before sleep.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene Daily

Just like any healthy habit you adopt, practicing good sleep hygiene takes time, especially if you spend a lot of time on social media.

  • Consider setting a timer on your phone that lets you know when your social media time for the day is up. Then do another activity that doesn’t require your electronic device.
  • Reading or soaking your feet in a TCM foot bath can help you relax before bed.
  • Consider exercising first thing in the morning when cortisol levels are at their highest to help you feel tired at night.
  • Don’t eat heavy foods before bed, try not to nap during the day, and consider working on your breathing before bed instead of scrolling.

These tips can help you reduce your social media anxiety and sleep better. Let us know how you get better sleep in the comments below!

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