From the School Nurse - February 2016

Sleep Texting

You have one. I have one. We all have at least one, some of us more than one piece of modern technology that allows us to communicate with others any time and nearly anyplace. No, I am not talking about a great old-fashioned conversation with another live person where your mouth is used to talk. I am referring to the social media and technology that is cell phones, notebooks and computers that are part of our daily lives and are not going anywhere!

Our kids are texting on the ride to school (hopefully when not driving), in class, at dinner, even when they are sitting next to the person they are texting, and in bed. It is the bed, “sleep-texting,” that is creating great concern in the medical world. Our teenagers are sleeping with their phones or other mobile devices, receiving messages, firing off messages, and waking with NO recollection of what took place (or maybe they do).

Teens are already sleep deprived and have their own challenges when it comes to getting the 9 1/4 hours of sleep that their bodies require each night. Typing messages to their friends all night is not helping that front as is evidenced the next day with poor classroom performance, difficulty concentrating, memory issues, moodiness and irritability. Sleep problems in this age group are also linked to obesity, high blood pressure, depression, behavioral problems and drug abuse. This may also lead to health problems into adulthood. Our brains have enough to do at night during all of our stages of sleep without sending messages to others.

According to a large-scale study by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2012, teens spent 53 hours per week engaged with some sort of electronic media – that is more than seven hours per day. Another study found a 566 percent jump in teen texting in two years with an average of more than 3,000 texts per month, and our daily consumption of social media is on the rise.

In 2015, the average media consumption was 15.5 hours per day. That being said, texting is not the issue, sleeping, or rather not sleeping, is the issue and this is pointing to a threat not only of our children’s academic success but also their physical and mental health.

What can we parents do? Keep the phones and mobile devices out of the bedroom and turn them off – silent is not good enough. Check your bills for late night calls and develop your family rule on the subject. The Kaiser Foundation also found that only three in 10 teens have house rules about electronic media use and the homes that do see a decrease in their teen’s overall tech time. Get your teen outside in the sunshine (yeah, right!) and get physical as good physical activity helps to improve sleep quality. We all want our kids to be healthy, happy and responsible. A great way to achieve that is with getting good and adequate sleep.

Enjoy a brisk outside walk with your teen while holding on to the fact that Spring really is just around some corner.

Jayne Dwyer-Reff, RN
School Nurse