Are Your Teens Sleep-Texting?

Adolescents send so many texts that some do it in their sleep. Here's why that's bad for their health and how you can help.

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 02, 2012
From the WebMD Archives

Here's a decidedly 21st-century sleep issue: "Sleep-texting" is a growing phenomenon among teens. That's right. Teens are reaching for their phones during the night, firing off messages, and waking up with no recollection of their actions.

Social media and technology are part of daily life for everyone, but especially for young people. One study suggests that U.S. teens send an average of 100 texts per day. Experts say extending the texting habit into their sleep time could lead to serious health issues.

Teen Sleep Needs

Teens have their own particular set of shut-eye needs and challenges. Most teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, most don't get it. Biological changes associated with puberty make it harder for teens to fall asleep and stay asleep. And with increased academic and social pressure, late nights, and sleep-in Saturday mornings -- it’s harder for them to maintain regular sleep schedules.

Unhealthy sleep habits can lead to serious sleep deprivation, posing a threat to teens' academic success and also to their physical and mental health. 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.

Research already shows that social media can interfere with teens' sleep habits. Teens spend 53 hours per week engaged with some form of electronic media, according to a large-scale study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That's more than seven hours per day.

The study also found that teens' daily consumption of social media is on the rise, with their use of mobile media increasing at the fastest rate. Another study indicates that teens who text and use the Internet are more likely to have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. More than half of kids and teenagers who text or surf the Internet at bedtime have mood, behavior, memory, and thinking problems during the day.

Texting during sleep is disruptive not only to the texting teen, but also to the teen who receives a message -- a beeping cell phone in the middle of the night disrupts another person’s rest.

Teen Texting De-tox

Here's how parents can help keep teenagers from overusing technology:

Set limits. Self-discipline and time management are hard enough for adults, much less teenagers. But you can establish boundaries. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that only three in 10 teens have rules at home about electronic media use. It also reports that such rules do help decrease teens' overall tech time.

Get them outside. Whether it's organized sports or regular family hikes, physical activity has many benefits, including time away from online distractions. Regular exercise and exposure to sunlight also improve sleep quality.

Keep the bedroom tech-free. This one's a no-brainer. The easiest way to prevent technology from interfering with your teenager's sleep is to keep cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices out of the bedroom.

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