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Young people are turning to social media apps in bed to avoid emotions, new research suggests.

Young people are using social media apps in bed before they go to sleep to avoid facing difficult feelings and emotions, UK research suggests. 

Over half (56%) of people ages 18-24 use social media apps in bed every day, before they go to sleep. Comparatively, 76% of the same age group say that they put no time aside to reflect on their feelings and emotions daily.

A mental health and wellbeing expert has warned that frequent use of social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat at bedtime is leaving young people with little or no time to reflect on their feelings and emotions. Tom Bivins, head of ergonomics and wellbeing at Vita Health Group says the emotional avoidance tactic of using social media in bed is contributing to the deterioration of mental health in young people.

The study of 2,000 UK adults was undertaken by leading healthcare provider, Vita Health Group. Respondents were asked about their pre-sleep social media habits and were quizzed on how much time they dedicate to reflecting on their feelings and emotions.

Bivins said: “Night-time is often the first time we are left alone with our own thoughts without distraction. Whilst this might come as a welcome relief to some, our research suggests that young people are widely turning to social media before sleeping and this could be an attempt to push negative or uncomfortable thoughts out of mind.”

Bivins said: “The danger of scrambling for a distraction is that emotional avoidance is only a temporary fix. Not only will your body be using considerable effort to keep them quashed, but it is likely that the feelings you are avoiding will grow stronger, more intense, and uncontrollable over time. It is concerning to see that only 24% of young people dedicate time to reflect on their feelings and emotions each day. Constant use of emotional avoidance tactics like scrolling social media can be detrimental to mental and physical wellbeing. Preventative management techniques will help individuals break the cycle leaving them feeling more comfortable with their emotions and better able to achieve a restful sleep”.

How often do Brits use social media apps in bed?

Overall, the study found that 50% of British adults say they use social media apps in bed before going to sleep at least once a week or more, and 27% of Brits say this has become a daily habit.

48% of those ages 25-34 use social media in bed, every day, before they go to sleep whilst 38% of those ages 25–44 admit to doing the same.

How much time do Brits dedicate to reflection?

Three quarters (75%) of Brits do not consider it necessary to reflect on their feelings and emotions day-to-day. In addition, nearly a third (31%) say they do not put any time aside to consider what they are feeling, rising to 45% for those aged 65 and over.

Bivins said: “Taking a little time each day to engage in self-reflection can be really beneficial. It can help people to process their thoughts and feelings and offers the opportunity to put things into perspective. This is particularly relevant for all of us right now given the impact of the pandemic, especially when life can feel repetitive and challenging.”

If you are concerned about your mental health, please contact your GP in the first instance. In addition, people struggling with their mental health can access a free psychological talking therapy service, provided by VitaMinds.

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