You might have heard about the many diseases and disorders that seem to be the ‘gifts’ of the new and improved tech-savvy world. Here’s one more you can add to the list; ‘sleep texting’ – a 21st century sleeping disorder in which people text in their sleep!
Sleep texting disorder occurs when a person sends or receives texts on his/her cell phone (or smart phone), in his/her sleep. Like in all other sleep disorders, sleep texting occurs during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep. Studies show that the brainwave patterns recorded by polysomnograms in this stage are the same as those recorded during the day. When the body is habituated to responding immediately to the steady ‘blips’ of a cell phone during the day, the motor nerves seem to act similarly during the REM phase. Texts sent in sleep are sometimes sensible, but are usually just a string of meaningless letters or words mainly because the people who suffer from this disorder are half awake or half asleep. Almost all individuals have no recollection of sleep texting, while a few have hazy memories or remember dreams in which they did something similar to what they texted. These text messages can be downright hilarious or can have undesirable consequences (imagine sending a ‘miss you’ message to your ex in the middle of the night!).
Causes of Sleep Texting
The most important reason why people suffer from sleep texting disorder is because they seem to be ‘at work’ 24/7. Mostly found in teenagers, sleep texting is more common among those who constantly use cell phones or smart phones during the day. Individuals who show symptoms of sleep texting need (or at least feel the need) to be in constant touch with others. Studies show that only one out of ten people switch off their cell phones while sleeping and four out of five teenagers sleep with their cell phones near them. Some of the other causes of this disorder are:
Stress: Pressure or anxiety related to work or personal life affect the sleep pattern of a person.
Excess Daytime Activity: If the brain is hyperactive in the day, the brain wave patterns remain the same at night.
Sleep Deprivation: For a person to work optimally, he/she requires a minimum of eight hours of sleep.
Genetic: When one or both parents suffer from sleep disorders, their children are more susceptible to suffer from sleep texting disorder.
Frequent Interruptions in Sleep: A disturbed sleep occurs due to a disturbed mind and a disturbed mind is more likely to indulge in sleep time activity.
This can also be a problem for professionals who have to be on a call for a prolonged period of time and for those who work on computers or cell phones on a very frequent basis. According to Dr. Ronald Kramer, “texting for some of the younger generation is probably as ingrained as driving is for some people“, hence the disorder.
What Research Has to Say
A kind of somnambulism (sleepwalking), sleep texting is a fairly new topic for doctors and sleep specialists; it was first noticed in 2008 and was identified by Dr. David Cunnington, a sleep expert in the Melbourne Sleep Disorder Center, Australia.
The Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute, the Melbourne Sleep Disorder Center and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine are some of the many institutes who are taking a keen interest in this new phenomenon, which seems to be only increasing in occurrence. Recently, researchers have tried to find out the relation between the number of texts sent in the day and the possibility of sleep texting.
According to sleep experts and doctors, the numbers of sleep texting examples have only been increasing in the last few years, though this number is less than the number of people who compose and send e-mails in their sleep. However, a few people think that sleep texting is just a cover up for drunk texting. The rest of us will have to wait for complete and substantially proved scientific studies on sleep texting.
While there is no concrete treatment as of now, there are a certain things that can be done to lower its effect. For starters, keep the phone out of the bedroom; better still, turn it off. Maintain a regular schedule for sleeping and make sure that there is as little disturbance as possible during that period. Where possible, reduce the amount of time spent on gadgets, especially smartphones and cell phones. The fact that a person could survive longer without food or water than without sleep (a person who is deprived of sleep for 9 days is more than likely to drop dead the next day), should be enough to drive home the importance of an uninterrupted and regular sleep.