Instagram’s ‘nighttime nudge’ reminds teens to stop scrolling and get some sleep. Here’s why parents might need it too.

Instagram's 'nighttime nudge' reminds teens to stop scrolling and get some sleep. Here's why parents might need it too.

“Time for a break? It’s getting late. Consider closing Instagram for the night,” encourages the app’s new “nighttime nudge” feature for teens. The message appears when teens have spent more than 10 minutes watching reels or reading DMs (direct messages) after 10 p.m. While teens can dismiss the reminder, they can’t turn off the feature, one of the company’s latest attempts to reduce the time kids spend on the platform.

When Instagram’s parent company, Meta, announced the nighttime nudge feature in a blog post in January, the company acknowledged that sleep is particularly important for young people. (Meta did not respond to Yahoo Life’s request for comment.)

But sleep is also important for adults. “Electronic use in general at bedtime has been shown to be associated with decreased sleep, and decreased sleep is known to be associated with sleepiness during the day, less alertness, more emotional issues or psychological problems and weight gain,” Dr. Maria Cecilia Saavedra Melendres, a pediatric pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center with an expertise in pediatric sleep medicine, tells Yahoo Life.

So given how important sleep is, could parents benefit from a “nudge” of their own? Yes, says Dr. Sushanth Bhat, an attending neurologist at JFK University Medical Center. Her 2018 study of 855 American adults found that the amount of social media use in bed correlates with adverse sleep, including insomnia and daytime sleepiness, and mood outcomes, such as depression and anxiety.

“Using smartphones in bed decreases the total sleep time, and it’s thought that exposure to blue light from screens may decrease the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps people fall asleep. Additionally, the interactivity and ongoing engagement that social media use creates in users’ minds, referred to by neuroscientists as ‘pre-sleep cognitive arousal,’ may also prevent them from being able to relax themselves mentally enough to fall asleep,” Bhat tells Yahoo Life.

The good news is that phone use in bed is a “very modifiable factor,” and many of the negative consequences of not getting enough sleep can be reversed with increasing sleep, according to Melendres, who considers so-called nighttime nudges a step in the right direction.

However, Melendres cautions, these types of reminders, like all behavior modification processes, will be successful only if a person wants to make a change. “The start of it being successful is the person identifying that, Yes, I do need to decrease this. Yes, I know it will be of benefit if I follow the notifications and stop electronics when it’s time to,” she says.

Bhat finds it encouraging that social media platforms are beginning to recognize concerns that the sleep medicine community has expressed, especially because her research, in both adults and children and adolescents, “has found that smartphone and social media use at nighttime, both immediately before people get into bed and after they are actually in bed, can negatively impact sleep quality, mood and daytime functioning.” This is why she believes adults would likely benefit from a similar feature, especially those who struggle to limit their social media use at night.

However, while these “nudges” could be a step toward a better night’s sleep, Melendres wants adults to know that the best option, especially for teens, is to keep phones out of bedrooms entirely. “[In our pediatric sleep clinic, we recommend to parents to have a charging station outside of the adolescent’s room. If the phone is there, they are going to reach for it. If they wake up at night, they are going to reach for it,” she tells Yahoo Life. Ideally, parents would do the same for themselves, but she knows it’s unlikely because many adults use their phones as alarm clocks and are too attached to them to make that level of separation feasible.

The most important thing for parents to remember is that sleep is just as important for them as it is for their kids. While adults need slightly less sleep (seven to nine hours) than teens (eight to 10 hours), getting enough rest is still vital for their physical and mental health. Without late night reminders available on their accounts (for now, anyway) grown-ups must be their own nighttime nudge telling them to stop scrolling and go to bed.