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'Sleep-Texting' is on the Rise

By Edited Mar 25, 2016 3 9

Mobile phone use has grown exponentially over the past few years. Today there are more mobile devices on Earth than there are humans. At this time, many people have become so dependent on their phones, if asked, they are likely to say they "can't live" without their smartphone. Many people do everything from communications to scheduling calendars—and much in between—through their mobile.

In 2013, some statistics indicated people spent about an hour a day on their smartphones. 1 Jump to 2014 and some statistics suggest this figure has increased to 3.3 hours per day. 2 A good part of this time is likely dedicated to texting. Many media reports also suggest these numbers are higher for teens.

Texting has become, for some, an obsession, perhaps even an addiction. For instance look at the problems associated with texting and distracted driving. If someone can't leave their phone alone while driving a car, this is a big problem, not only for the driver, but for the other motorists and pedestrians on the road.

The above statistics are presumably for using a phone during the waking hours. However, recent indicators highlight many users are engaging in electronic communications during sleep hours as well.

Enter "sleep-texting."

sleep texting
Credit: tracey r (wanderingone) on Flickr / Creative Commons License w/Attribution

How many people do you know who sleep with their phones? It's probably more than you think.

Rise of Sleep Texting

Anywhere you go these days, chances are someone is looking at their phone and doing some texting. It has gone far beyond being a novelty, texting today is a part of daily routine. This is not necessarily a bad thing either, however, is this draw towards texting so ingrained in the brain now that people automatically do it while they are asleep? That seems to be the case, and it appears to be a growing trend.

Sleep-walking has been a known phenomena for a long time, but it seems walking is not the only activity people subconsciously do when they are asleep.  Statistics are also increasingly suggesting people sleep with their phones. Mobile users are also reportedly not just sleeping, they are actively using their phones while catching their nightly zzzz's.  According to an Aug. 2013 Live Science report, people are increasingly "sleep-texting", meaning they are sending out texts, sometimes embarrassing ones, while they are actually asleep. 3

Texting closeup
Credit: BuzzFarmers/Creative Commons-Attribution/Share Alike

Often those engaged in sleep-texting have no recollection of sending or reading these messages. In February 2013, CNN reported this phenomenon was on the rise, but no hard data was available at that time. This seems to still be the case in 2014. While specific statistics are not available, societal indicators point the obsession and/or habit with texting has moved to a more prominent level.

Fast-forward to 2016 and a Rutgers University study found night texting does interfere with a teen's sleep and affects academic performance. 9 While this study was not about "sleep texting" per se, it does highlight the problems associated with young people who spend a significant amount of time texting. Over time this could evolve into even more serious a problem as they become adults.

Forgotten Events

In 2013 CBS Local New York spoke to several people who said they slept with their phones. And, as a result, their texting habit had overflowed into their sleep. One person interviewed said people were receiving texts from her in the middle of the night. She did not recall sending the messages.  She admitted many of them were incoherent and jumbled nonsense.

“My charger is right there in the corner so sometimes I would keep it right here next to me. I guess I got up and texted and went back to bed but I don’t remember it,” sleep texter Megan told CBS 2′s Kristine Johnson. 6

Other people have made plans and do not remembering doing so, or dreaming of events that actually occurred -- but through text. Media reports also show others are sending comments that later embarrass them, including texts to clients, former partners or fellow students, to name a few examples. Yet, other texters come across as completely coherent and the recipients are none the wiser that the sender is snoozing as he or she types the message.

Interrupted Sleep

In addition to the potentially awkward situations sleep-texting can create, there is also the issue of how texting during sleeping hours can disrupt a good night's rest. Sleep experts say that the texting seems to occur before a person falls into a deep sleep, which interrupts getting a solid rest. Over time this habit can interfere with a person's ability to focus at work or school the next day.7

If texts are disrupting sleep, it could also potentially lead to bigger health problems down the road. People who are active texters and find they have sent texts during the night and don't remember might find it worthwhile to just turn off the phone at night.  Or leave the phone in another room, far out of reach.

Are the potential effects associated with using a mobile during sleep hours worth it? While connectivity is convenient, as a society, it might be a good idea for us to evaluate whether or not we really need to be "online" 24 hours a day. Information overload can become a problem in many ways, including making an impact on sleep.

[ Related Reading: A Look at the Wearable Electronics Trend ]



Jan 7, 2015 7:10am
Oh my goodness. I do believe that this sleep-texting can happen and is symptomatic of spending way too much time on mobile devices than on living life and connecting with humans face-to-face. (I'm not saying I'm any better, here).

This reminds me a bit of "sleep-eating" which at first I didn't believe until I caught a reputable documentary about it.

I think it's best if we keep our bedrooms for sleep and you-know-what (as the experts say) and leave (keep) all the other stuff in a separate room.
Jan 9, 2015 2:34am
I actually have been avoiding texting et al (I have an old phone that basically is just calls, but others in my family use smartphones). It fascinates me how mobile is really changing our lifestyles. I'm not familiar with "sleep-eating", (but I guess that is a good thing!) Wow.

Totally agree with you on the bedrooms. Our old place we all had TVs in the bedrooms, but when we moved, we decided to take them out of all bedrooms too.
Jan 9, 2015 2:34am
And thanks so much for commenting! :)
Jan 16, 2015 5:03pm
oh no! i had never heard of such a thing!!! i guess im not surprised though :-D
Jan 17, 2015 4:34am
Seems technology is taking over, consciously and subconsciously! :). Thank you for your comment.
Jan 16, 2015 7:20pm
I'm one of those people who can't live without a cell phone. Landlines are so last century.

I text a lot too but have never heard of people doing it in their sleep. I'd keep my phone in another room but use the alarm because I can select something nice to wake up to.
Jan 17, 2015 4:37am
Many people I know have given up their landlines, I'm still not quite ready to make that leap yet (lol).

Thanks so much for commenting :)
Jan 17, 2015 10:58am
Smart phones are the most invasive technology ever. Texting has already interfered with real face to face communication. Now it's threatening our sleep.
Jan 18, 2015 3:56am
I wonder where these phones "will go" (and how far) as tech development continues? It's just so fast the way things progress. I do have concerns with all these digital footprints left with personal information.

Thanks very much for commenting, appreciated!
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  1. Heather Kelly "People use smartphones nearly an hour a day, study says." CNN. 29/05/2013. 16/10/2014 <Web >
  2. "Amy Dusto." Internet Retailer. 06/03/2014. 16/10/2014 <Web >
  3. Marc Lallanilla "Sleep-Texting: Harmless, Embarrassing or Risky?." Live Science. 13/08/2013. 16/10/2014 <Web >
  4. Paul Devlin "Texting: A Dangerous Addiction." New Canaan Patch. 16/10/2014 <Web >
  5. Breeanna Hare "Don't recall sending that message? Maybe you're 'sleep texting'." CNN. 22/02/2013. 16/10/2014 <Web >
  6. "Seen At 11: Don’t Remember Sending That Text? You Might Have Been Asleep." CBS News. 21/08/2013. 16/10/2014 <Web >
  7. "A new disorder is plaguing teenagers: Sleep texting." Star Tribune. 06/12/2013. 16/10/2014 <Web >
  8. "The Trouble With Sleep Texting." US News. 16/10/2014 <Web >
  9. "Texting at Night Affects Teens’ Sleep, Academic Performance." Rutgers Today. 22/01/2016. 24/03/2016 <Web >

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