January 26, 2024

Instagram’s Nighttime Nudges: The reminders students need that it’s “time for a break”

Be sure to check out the suggested Huddle question at the bottom of this article to discuss this important topic with your students in class, if you feel it is appropriate.

Did you know 82% of teenage students regularly check social media before bedtime? This habit often turns into mindless scrolling – and multiple hours of sleep down the drain. Whether aware of it or not, nearly every educator has seen the effects of the sleep deprivation “epidemic” play out in the classroom. The consequences on students of not enough sleep are well-studied, and they include everything from lack of concentration in school to severe mental health challenges. 

Nighttime Nudges is Instagram’s latest effort to improve student health and well-being by encouraging younger users to prioritize sleep over late-night social media scrolling. Let’s take a closer look.

Introducing: Nighttime Nudges

Nighttime Nudges, one of Instagram’s newest features, attempts to help students get the sleep they need. The new feature prompts all users ages 13-17 with a pop-up screen reading “Time for a break?” after they have spent more than 10 minutes engaging with interactive features such as Reels or Direct Messages after 10 pm. It’s designed to remind students about the importance of a healthy balance in screen time, particularly during the evening hours. These nudges encourage teenage users to take breaks, prioritize offline activities, and be mindful of their overall well-being–essential tasks right before bed. 

The Nighttime Nudges feature is being released simultaneously with other related updates to make Instagram a safer and healthier app for its younger audience. For example, Meta is also working to hide more age-inappropriate content for students on Instagram and Facebook. These changes reflect a growing awareness of social media’s impact on students. They may be a response to the lawsuits filed against Meta, claiming that the company deceptively uses its algorithms to keep students hooked on its platforms. 

Unlike the option to set up break reminders in Instagram’s settings, the Nighttime Nudges feature is mandatory for users under 18 (and optional for adults). The new feature has not yet launched for all users, but Meta started rolling it out last week with the hopes that young “night owls” might consider sleeping rather than scrolling. 

A healthy wind-down today for a successful school day tomorrow

Students face many demands online and offline during their waking hours. Learning how to balance schoolwork, extracurricular activities, social events, online communications, and downtime takes work. For many students, fitting sleep, rest, and relaxation into the mix is an even more significant challenge. But finding healthy ways to rest and relieve stress is essential. High-stress levels can affect students’ performances in school by making it difficult for them to process, remember, and think critically about the information they learn. 

While many students open up their favorite apps for a mental break, doing so right before bed could impact their sleep quality. Experts recommend staying off of devices for at least an hour before bedtime. While this may seem unrealistic for many students, it’s critical to handling stress. Educators may also want to consider healthier sleep schedules, as research shows that teachers’ stress often trickles down to students and affects their academic success. Let’s explore some other healthy ways to wind down that students and adults alike could consider incorporating into their bedtime routine:

  • Read a Physical Book: If you enjoy reading before bed, opt for a physical book rather than an electronic device. The act of reading a book can be a relaxing way to unwind.
  • Take a Warm Bath or Shower: A warm bath or shower can help relax your muscles and signal your body that it’s time for sleep. 
  • Practice Gratitude: Take a few moments to reflect on the positive aspects of your day. Practicing gratitude can shift your focus from stressors and promote a positive mindset before bedtime.
  • Listen to Calming Music or Podcasts: Choose soothing music or a calming podcast to help quiet your mind. Opt for genres or topics that promote relaxation rather than stimulate your thoughts.
  • Write in a Journal: Spend a few minutes journaling your thoughts, reflections, or feelings. This practice can help clear your mind and provide a sense of closure to the day.
  • Stretch or Do Gentle Yoga: Engage in gentle stretching or yoga poses to release muscle tension. This can help improve flexibility and relax your body.
  • Create a To-Do List for Tomorrow: Organize your thoughts by creating a to-do list for the next day. This can help prevent bedtime anxiety about the tasks ahead.

Regarding sleep patterns, the importance of habits cannot be understated. Instagram’s Nighttime Nudges are a great example of tech companies putting student well-being first and encouraging students to form healthier habits. 73% of teenage students need more sleep, and changing bedtime habits can help students get the sleep they need to navigate their world with more awareness and care, both online and offline. Educators can empower students with our wide array of #WinAtSocial lessons. Check out this related lesson on Examining the Impact of Stress on Your Secret Superpower: Sleep, which challenges students to prioritize sleep and prepare for success. 

#WinAtSocial Huddle Question
Huddle with your students
Do you have a bedtime routine? If spending lots of time on your phone before bed is your go-to, you’re not alone. As Instagram’s new “Nighttime Nudges” feature highlights, mindless scrolling on social media can also reduce the amount of sleep you get, which can in turn affect your overall well being. Coming up with a bedtime routine, especially one that does not include screen time, is a great way to prepare your body for good sleep. What’s something that you can do before bed every night to relax? Consider some of the ideas above!

The Social Institute (TSI) is the leader in empowering students by understanding students. Through #WinAtSocial, our gamified, peer-to-peer learning platform, we equip students, educators, and families to navigate their social world – in the classroom and beyond, online and offline – in healthy, high-character ways. Our unique, student-respected approach empowers and equips, rather than scares and restricts. We incorporate timely topics about social media, tech use, and current events that are impacting student well-being and learning. #WinAtSocial Lessons teach life skills for the modern day, capture student voice, and provide school leaders with actionable insights. Through these insights, students play an essential role in school efforts to support their own health, happiness, and future success as we enable high-impact teaching, meaningful family conversations, and a healthy school culture.