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'Sleep Texting' Is a Growing Problem for Teens

Update Date: Feb 14, 2013 11:15 AM EST

We all know how attached teenagers are to their cell phones. However, that constant connection may be giving rise to a new, sometimes troubling behavior called sleep texting. Like sleep walking and sleep talking, sleep texting is marked by a person sending texts while they are still asleep. The texts can have unexpected consequences, both social and personal.

"The phone will beep, they'll answer the text," Elizabeth Dowdell, a nursing professor at Villanova University, said to CBS Philadelphia. "They'll either respond in words or gibberish. (It) can even be inappropriate. Ex-girlfriends contacting ex-boyfriends, saying 'I miss you. I want to see you.' The thing that happens, though, is that when they wake up, there's no memory."

According to United Press International, sleep texting occurs when teenagers are in the transitional state between being awake and being asleep. Sometimes, the texts are not as inappropriate as Dowdell refers to; sometimes they are gibberish, or they start off making sense and become nonsense. Then the next day, the teens will arrive at school and a friend will make a comment about the crazy text they sent. She also said that, aside from being innocently silly and embarrassing, the texts may lead to bullying.

However, sleep texting can also have personal, biological ramifications for teens. Most teenagers need 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night, and most are falling short of those needs, which can lead to grumpiness, obesity and problems in school, work and their relationships.

"Overplugged and overextended teens and young adults tend to get less than that," Professor Dowdell said, "so this interrupts what could be a good night's sleep, because they're an hour-and-a-half or two hours into their sleep cycle, and they're answering texts or the machines are beeping at them."

Experts suggest that families keep a docking station in the kitchen, living room or another common space, where everyone can charge their phones, in order to make sure that phones are off during the night.

Because some teenagers insist that they use their phones as alarm clocks, experts say that teens should have their phones across the room so that they need to walk over to use them - or parents should simply buy their children alarm clocks.

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