When it comes to teenagers, texting can get a little out of control. In fact, a recent study found that one in three teenagers send more than 100 text messages a day. At this rate, it’s not surprising that four out of five teens sleep with their phone on or near their bed.
In the past year, the term “sleep texting” has received buzz among family physicians and the media alike. It refers to the phenomenon of reading and responding to text messages while asleep. Dr. Gerald Rosen, medical director of the pediatric sleep disorders program at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, explains that sleep texting is an automatic response, similar to how a mother responds to her crying baby during the night. “If you’re a mother, you awaken to the sound of your child crying. Even if it’s not a loud noise, it will trigger an awakening. That’s essentially what’s happening with lots of kids with their phones.”
So what are the implications of sleep texting? If you’re lucky, you’ll send a few texts to friends that are may be relevant or cause a few harmless laughs. However, it can cause embarrassment– or worse. Some people have texted 911, for example.
The true troubles of sleeping so close to your phone do not end at sleep texting. With the bright lights and noises emitted from a phone, keeping the device on your pillow or around your bed is bound to interrupt sleep. When we stare at gadgets during the night, be it cell phones, iPads, laptops, or televisions, the bright light inhibits the release of melatonin – a hormone that helps us to fall asleep when it’s dark. Typically doctors recommend avoiding these devices at least 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep.
With many people becoming increasingly reliant on cell phones, we’ll likely hear more about “sleep texting” in the future. If you want to sleep well–and avoid yourself potential embarrassment–keep your cell phone away from your bed!