In today's technology-driven society, teenagers and young adults exchange more than 100 text messages each and every day. Texting has streamlined our methods of communicating, but may also be preventing you from getting a good night's sleep.
"I woke up in the morning and I had four text messages from people, and I had randomly answered them in the middle of the night. And I had no idea that I answered them," said one University of Tampa student. "I spelled a couple things wrong, but auto-correct on iPhone helps a lot."
It's called: Sleep texting. Professor Elizabeth Dowdell, nursing professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, researches the technological phenomenon and says young adults -- high school and college students -- are most at risk.
"They don't remember sleep texting, they don't remember their phones going off. And almost all of them are checking their phones in the morning."
Dowdell says that's when they discover the unconscious communication. "Often times what they respond is complete gibberish, misspellings, or doesn't make any sense."
According to Dr. Robert Geck, a sleep specialist at Tampa General Hospital and the University of South Florida, sleep texting is a symptom of a larger problem.
"Even with sleepwalking or other activities like that, you need an awakening from your sleep to begin the activity. You don't just start the activity. Generally that's related to other issues with sleep. Most times you're responding autonomously, automatically," he explained.
Bottom line, children and young release growth hormones -- important for development. And for the rest of us, that "beauty sleep" helps us to repair damage, encode memories, and improve learning.
It may also help our mental health, including emotional and social functioning. It may even help prevent disease. Recent studies show that our brains cleanse themselves during deep sleep, eliminating toxins like those associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Sleep deprivation in children can lead to behavior problems, sleepiness at school, difficulty learning and even hyperactivity.
Dr. Geck says eliminating the source is easy. "The best treatment for this is basically a $5 alarm clock that you put in your room, and leave your cell phone outside."
Another option: Lead by example. Set up a charging station for the whole family outside your bedrooms.
If you can't leave the phone behind or turn it off, change the settings. Place it on vibrate or use the 'do not disturb' settings to only allow certain callers to get through in the event of an emergency.
If you're in a single dorm room, Dr. Dowdell has another suggestion. Wear mittens or socks on your hands making it impossible to unconsciously text something you might later regret.
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