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Texting Late at Night Hurts Teens’ Academics, Sleep, Study Says

Update Date: Jan 22, 2016 11:38 AM EST

Teens who text friends late at night after the lights are out might suffer from academic setbacks and sleeping problems, a new study out of Rutgers University reported.

For this study, researcher Xue Ming, a professor of neuroscience and neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and colleagues set out to examine the effects that text messaging might have teens' sleeping patterns and school grades.

"During the last few years I have noticed an increased use of smartphones by my patients with sleep problems," she explained. "I wanted to isolate how messaging alone - especially after the lights are out - contributes to sleep-related problems and academic performance."

To carry out her research, Ming distributed surveys to three high schools - a suburban public school, an urban public school and a private school - in New Jersey. She received a total of 1,537 responses.

After analyzing the teens' texting habits, sleep patterns and grades, Ming concluded that teens who did not text before sleep or stopped texting within 30 minutes of going to bed and shutting the lights off performed much better in school than those who continued to text for more than 30 minutes after the lights were out.

Unsurprisingly, teens who texted longer also slept less than teens who were not texting as frequently. Ming noted that texting when the lights were still on did not seem to affect teens' academic performance.

"When we turn the lights off, it should be to make a gradual transition from wakefulness to sleep," Ming said reported by Medical Xpress. "If a person keeps getting text messages with alerts and light emission, that also can disrupt his circadian rhythm. Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the period during sleep most important to learning, memory consolidation and social adjustment in adolescents. When falling asleep is delayed but rising time is not, REM sleep will be cut short, which can affect learning and memory."

Ming suggested that educating teens about good sleeping patterns could be beneficial.

The study's findings were published in the Journal of Child Neurology.

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