It seems we just don’t like to be alone at night: just under half of us crawl into bed with our smartphone. Perhaps we crave being connected a little too much, because it has resulted in a new sleeping disorder not seen until recently: sleep texting.
Not surprisingly, it occurs most often in adolescents and young adults, says Dr. Michael Gelb, a clinical professor at New York University’s College of Dentistry and founder of The Gelb Center in New York, as quoted in a recent article in The Atlantic . Sleep texting has been classified as a parasomnia, along with more commonly known phenomena such as sleepwalking or night terrors.
And while the results may resemble drunk-dialing (or actually, drunk-texting), often alcohol has nothing to do with it. Sleep texting usually happens during naps or about two hours after falling asleep, prior to entering a deep REM sleep.
Specialists studying the sleep disorder say that the term “sleep texting” is better termed “half-asleep texting”: you’re awake enough to go through the texting motions, but not awake enough to make sense, or to stop yourself from texting something or someone that your conscious self would never allow. And the worst part is, you have no memory of texting, until you look at your phone’s history the next day.
While sleep texting often leads to some awkward or apologetic follow-up conversations, there’s still a deeper problem:
“Sleep is a very important restorative process,” Josh Werber, a specialist at Long Island’s EOS Sleep Centers, explained in a recent article in U.S. News & World Report. “And when we’re not fully engaged in it, and not getting the amount we need, we’re not having the same restorative effect on our brains. And that affects our cognitive ability the next day.” Long-term sleep deprivation effects can result in high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.
Certain factors such as stress levels, how much sleep you’ve had or how much you’ve had to drink, will impact the possibility of sending a sleep text, says Dr. Gelb. Experts agree: if you think you may be a sleep texter, then you need to turn off your phone, set your passcode lock, and/or move your phone out of reach. Most recommend turning off all electronic devices half an hour before you turn in at night, giving your brain time to relax.
Your turn: Have you ever fallen asleep with your smartphone in-hand?