How doom scrolling at night might be ruining your health

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Millions of people have been unwittingly harming themselves with one daily ritual that on the surface seems innocent enough, but has proven to be quite dangerous.

Making the intentional decision to lay in bed and scroll through social media apps like TikTok, Instagram and Twitter – a habit coined “doom scrolling” – could be causing serious damage, sleep expert Rachel Beard has warned.

Doom scrolling can be a form of harmful self-sabotage with far-reaching consequences that at best will make you feel drowsy the next day, but at worst, could impair your memory, information retention and mental health.


man scrolling on phone in bed
Doom scrolling can lead to next-day drowsiness or more serious problems like memory impairment.
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Ms. Beard, Sleep Wellness manager at A.H.Beard, said while those that found themselves in the vicious cycle of doom scrolling night after night were setting themselves to fail, they weren’t entirely to blame.

“These social media sites are designed to attract you onto the app and then hold you there,” she told news.com.au.

Many people make the decision to have their pre-sleep doom scroll several hours before bedtime – telling themselves they deserve it as a piece of “me time”, she said.

“So by the time it gets to bedtime, people are making that intentional decision to sacrifice or delay sleep to either scroll on their phone or watch TV.

“It’s using sleep as the thing you sacrifice throughout the day.”


Woman scrolling on phone in faint light
A major risk of late-night doom scrolling is poorer sleep quality as a result of your phone’s blue light.
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Ms. Beard said without the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night, people fell into a harmful cycle that made it difficult to get the most out of themselves during the day.

“You wake up tired, feel like you’re on the back foot and you’re not able to live the day at your best, and therefore then you’re tired throughout the day and at the end, you’re craving that doom scrolling,” she said.

Rather than plonking down and reaching for the phone, Ms. Beard encouraged seasoned doom scrollers to try a new bedtime routine beginning either 30 minutes or an hour before sleep.

She encouraged disconnection from technology one hour before bed, turning down the lights and turning off the TV to allow the body to wind down.

“It’s a hard decision to make and it seems simple on paper, but the practicality of being protective of that one hour before bed is a really beneficial first step,” she said.

A healthy sleep routine would look slightly different for everyone, but could involve having a nice hot shower, tidying the bedroom and making it comfy, and putting down all devices for the day.

Not only was sleep deprivation harmful on its own, blue light from devices came with its own list of side-effects, Ms. Beard said.

“The blue light enters your eyes and hits your brain, then suppresses the production of melatonin, which is our body’s natural sleep hormone.

“So the blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s time to be awake, when we should be allowing our brain to naturally produce melatonin so we can feel sleepy, fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.”

The content consumed by people during their late-night doom scrolling was also likely to impair sleep quality.

“It can often stimulate your brain, either subconsciously or consciously, and not allow it to properly wind down and prepare for sleep,” Ms. Beard said.

She said while an hour was an ideal amount of time to prepare for sleep, even 30 minutes would be beneficial.

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