Social media trauma and the rise of insomnia among the youth

Brenda Kemigisa

What you need to know:

  • Schools and parents need to educate young people about the risks of social media and how to use it safely.

In recent years, there has been a growing body of research on the negative impact of social media on mental health. One of the most concerning findings is that social media use can lead to trauma, which can in turn contribute to sleep problems such as insomnia.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterised by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. It can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental health.

In Uganda, where social media use is increasingly common among young people, mainly to share information, links and entertainment there is a growing concern about the link between social media trauma and insomnia. 

A study by Makerere University found that young people who used social media for more than two hours a day were more likely to experience symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These symptoms were in turn associated with increased difficulty sleeping.

There are a number of reasons why social media use can lead to trauma. One reason is that social media can be a platform for cyberbullying and harassment. When young people are subjected to this type of abuse, it can be very damaging to their mental health. 

Additionally, social media can be a source of negative social comparison. When young people see images of other people who seem to be happier, more successful, or more attractive than they are, it can make them feel bad about themselves. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, which can all contribute to insomnia.

The good news is that there are things that can be done to mitigate the negative impact of social media on mental health. One important step is to limit the amount of time you spend on social media, it is also important to understand the risks of cyberbullying and social comparison, and how you can develop coping mechanisms to deal with these challenges. 

Furthermore, set aside time each day for relaxation and stress-relief and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime because these substances can interfere with sleep.

If you are a young person who is struggling with insomnia, it is important to talk to a doctor or therapist. They can help you to identify the underlying causes of your insomnia and develop strategies for managing it.

In addition to individual interventions, there are also broader societal changes that need to be made to address the issue of social media trauma and insomnia. For example, Social media companies need to be more responsible for the content that is shared on their platforms. They need to do more to prevent the spread of harmful content, such as cyberbullying and harassment, pornography and hate speech. They also need to make it easier for users to report and remove harmful content. 

In conclusion, schools and parents need to educate young people about the risks of social media and how to use it safely.

It is also important to remember that you are not alone. Insomnia is a common problem, and there are many people who have successfully overcome it. With the right treatment and lifestyle changes, you can too.

By taking these steps, we can help to protect young people from the negative impact of social media and improve their mental health and well-being.

Ms Brenda Mary Kemigisa, Communications officer at African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV)