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Texting, Surfing Before Bed Affect Daytime Mood


Are your children or teenagers texting and surfing the Internet before they go to bed? A new study shows that more than half of young people who do also experience problems with mood and cognitive functioning during daytime.

Daytime problems are associated with pre-bedtime texting

It appears that children and adolescents who interact with cell phones and the cyberworld before they go to bed are not only having difficulties falling asleep, but are also have trouble coping with daytime activities. This was the finding of a team of researchers from JFK Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey, who evaluated the impact of texting and other communication technology on sleep patterns and daytime functioning in 40 students aged 8 to 22 years.

All the participants completed a modified version of the Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire and reported on a period from September 2009 to May 2010. Their responses showed that the children were sending an average of 33.5 texts and/or e-mails per night ranging from 10 minutes to 4 hours before bedtime. This represented an average of 3,404 texts sent per month per individual in the study.

More than 77 percent of the participants had persistent difficulties getting to sleep, and students were awakened by communication technology on average of one time per night. Problems with technology went beyond nighttime, however. According to Peter G. Polos, MD, PhD, FCCP, and the study’s lead author, “Children who engage in pre-bedtime use of technology have a high rate of daytime problems, which can include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, and learning difficulties,” and these are in addition to other challenges they encounter during the night, such as insomnia and leg pain.

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“These children are engaging in stimulating activity when they should be in an environment to promote sleep,” Polos noted. David Gutterman, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians, pointed out that “the prevalence of insomnia and other sleep disorders is cause for great concern,” because they can have negative consequences on children’s ability to perform well academically.

Because “sleep is largely habitual in nature,” children who establish a habit of texting and other stimulating behaviors before bedtime “may set themselves up for the need for external stimulation before sleep later in life,” according to Polos. This can lead to problems such as insomnia, sleep deprivation, and sleepiness during the day.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, school age children need 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night. Young people who do not get enough sleep can experience behavior and mood problems, difficulties with memory and concentration, learning problems, accidents and injuries, and slower reaction times. A recent study published in Sleep Medicine reports that insomnia is a significant problem among nearly one-third of school-aged and adolescent patients seen by the nearly 1,300 members of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

For parents who worry that television is detrimental for their children, Polos emphasizes that “using cell phones or computers, or surfing the Internet, with all the graphics and rapid responses, is more addictive, seductive, and interactive than passively watching television.” Given that sleep disorders are an increasing problem, parents and doctors need to analyze children’s use of technology when evaluating them for sleep problems.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine
CHEST 2010, 76th Annual Meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians