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Sleep texting on the rise

You’ve heard of sleep walking, but what, you may ask, is sleep texting? So called sleep texters send messages and emails on their phones at night, while they are sleeping. They don’t remember doing so when they wake up. “Because it’s so easy to get notifications from smartphones, it becomes more difficult for us to separate our waking and sleeping lives,” says Dr. Cunnington, a sleep specialist.

Girl sleeps with cell phone in her hand

Sleep texters cannot part with their cell phones (image by PhotoGirlAZ).

Often, sleep texters check their phone when they get up at night to go to the bathroom or drink water. They dash off a reply, which may be embarrassing when they see it the next day. One woman admitted to replying to an old boyfriend’s text with “I adore you, please come over,” when she was sleeping.

Sleep texts may come from the subconscious mind

“A person may text an inappropriate message emerging out of their unconscious mind that the conscious person would not want to send,” according to Dr. Lina Fine, a Seattle sleep neurologist. As Fine points out, “the most powerful tool we have is language, and the smartphone has become a common way to communicate. It’s reflective to go for something we use the most.”

A study, conducted by Elizabeth Dowdell, a nursing professor at Villanova University, Pennsylvania, found that one in four students in her class had sent sleep texts. However, sleep texting has only been around for the past couple of years, according to Fine.

Although sleep texting is rising, Fine says “it’s a rare condition.” She says it is usually hits “people who are extremely savvy and well-versed in social media or use it as part of their job or have to be online a lot.”

Unsurprisingly, then, sleep texting often affects teens. “They’re not only with their cellphones most of the day,” says Dr. Larry Rosen, a research psychologist specializing in technology. “They often sleep with it right next to them and let the vibration wake them up.”

Solutions to sleep texting

Sleep texting is unhealthy. “They’re not getting the deep sleep or the rapid eye movement sleep, which is really critical to higher brain function,” says Dr. Josh Werber, a sleep specialist. He suggests moving your phone from the bedroom.

In case you want to keep your phone with you, Dr. William DePaso, another sleep specialist, suggests that you put a lock on the phone, or a hard-to-remove-case, so that it becomes tougher to text. Another solution, which Dowdell’s students used, was to sleep with mittens.

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