High Tech Health Problem: Sleep Texting

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Most of us are aware of how inseparable many young people and their cell phones are. Some teens and young adults take their phones with them everywhere they go – even to bed. Doctors are reporting an increased number of young people suffering from sleep disorders and as many as half of them may be “sleep texting.” Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of sleep walking, some of them are actually sending and receiving text messages on their cell phones while they are asleep!

Olivia Priedeman, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school student awoke one morning and recalled a dream she had that involved making plans to do something with a friend. She later realized that it wasn’t a dream at all and that she had picked up her phone during the night, used her security code to unlock it and read a text message from a friend! Apparently, cell phone are so deeply integrated into the lives of some young people that they have become comfortable using them even while fast asleep.

Medical professionals acknowledge the fact that sleep texting may be odd, but it’s also perfectly explainable. The human brain can actually operate with portions of it awake and other portions asleep. This is the same phenomenon that explains sleep walking – the part of the brain responsible for motor skills (texting, walking) can wake up while the part of the brain responsible for memory and judgment can remain asleep. Doctors are growing concerned about the constant reliance on cell phones by large numbers of younger people.

The statistics paint a clear picture of just how embedded cell phones have become in the lives of many teens and young adults. One out of three teenagers sends more than 100 text messages a day, and at least four out of five teens admit that they sleep with their phone turned on or near their bed.

Sleep specialists have reported cases where patients have taken unusual measures in an effort to prevent themselves from sleep texting such as wearing mittens or socks on their hands when they go to bed.

Sleep texting may not be as dangerous as sleep walking or even sleep driving, but it can still represent a problem for people who have their normal sleep cycle interrupted by receiving or transmitting text messages.

For those who sleep with their cell phones nearby, receiving a text message from someone in the middle of the night might be a good time to respond with: “r u awake?”  If you, in fact, are awake and alert yourself, of course!

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