Sleep texting – on the rise
Is it happening in the Philippines? Given this country’s distinction of being the texting capital of the world, it must be. But so far there have been no reports of it from doctors or telephone companies.
The mystery? A new phenomenon called sleep texting. Yes, texting while you’re sleeping.
Surprisingly, the Sleep Disorders Unit at St. Luke’s Medical Center has never even heard of it, but it really exists. New cases are being reported every week, especially from the US.
“Sleep texting is a new phenomenon that has slipped under the radar,” said Markus Schmidt, medical director for the Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute. “But a lot of us in the practice are seeing this.”
Sleep texting – a new phenomenon
He added that sleep deprivation and stress can cause repetitive actions, such as walking or talking, to occur during sleep. Now, texting might be part of the group.
Experts are still learning about the phenomenon, which tends to occur in an age group that doesn’t get enough sleep.
Last year, American teens aged 13 to 18 said they slept nearly 7 1/2 hours on a typical school night. That is about an hour and 45 minutes less than recommended, according to a poll by the US National Sleep Foundation.
Twenty percent of teens say they often wake up to phone calls, text messages or emails on their cellphones at night.
It’s not just in the US that reports are coming in about sleep texting.
Reports of sleep texting coming from the US and Australia
Sleep specialist Dr David Cunnington of the Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre in Australia, claims some of his patients are reporting waking up startled to find that they’ve sent text messages while asleep.
“People are doing so much during a normal day that it can mean that they feel like they’re ‘on call’ even at night,” said Dr. Cunnington. “Because it’s so easy to receive emails constantly and get notifications from smartphones, it becomes more difficult for us to separate our waking and sleeping lives.”
Last summer, 17 year-old American school girl Courtney Backus said she received a confusing message from a friend. Later, she realized that the friend was responding to messages that she had sent in her sleep.
She had another episode, when she told a friend during a bout of sleep-texting that she would bring a girl named Beatrice to a New Year’s Eve party.
“I woke up and saw that he sent me a message, ‘Have you talked to your friend?’ I had no idea what he was talking about. I don’t even know anyone named Beatrice,” Backus said.
Schmidt believes it makes sense that teens would sleep-text considering how often they send messages while they are awake. Backus, for instance, said she exchanges about 4,000 text messages a day, texting multiple friends at the same time.
Dr. Michael J. Breus, a New York-based Clinical Psychologist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, says that sleep texting is a decidedly 21st-century sleep issue. He also believes it’s bad for the health of adolescents.
“Unhealthy sleep habits can lead to serious sleep deprivation, posing a threat to teens’ academic success and also to their physical and mental health,” he said.
“Sleep problems among this age group are linked to obesity, high blood pressure, depression, behavioral problems and drug abuse. Some evidence suggests that sleep problems during adolescence can affect health well into adulthood.”
He added that texting during sleep is disruptive not only to the texting teen, but also to the teen who receives a message.
Dr. Breus urges parents to help their children from overusing technology. He suggest parents set limits on the amount of time children can have using electronic media. And he recommends getting kids more interested in outdoor activities. He stresses that bedrooms should be tech-free.
But knowing how addicted our children are to iPads, iPhones and similar fancy gadgets, that’s easier said than done.