Sleepiness from round-the-clock texting hurting teens, doctors say
Published Sunday, October 21, 2012 8:24PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 21, 2012 10:50PM EDT
Round-the-clock communication is taking its toll on teenagers, with doctors reporting that one quarter of teens are showing signs of excessive sleepiness.
Experts say the problem stems from smartphones and tablet computers, which deliver a constant stream of text messages, emails and social media notificationsand keep teens from getting much-needed sleep.
Research shows that some teens are sending between 30 and 120 text messages per night.
One Calgary doctor warns parents that daytime sleepiness is developing into what she calls a “social epidemic.”
“I think doctors are just waking up to this idea,” sleep specialist Dr. Val Kirk told CTV News. “It’s not just computers. The vast majority are social networking at night and that’s what we have to get our heads around.”
Kirk said the impact of virtually chatting the night away is already evident in the classroom, with teachers reporting it’s common to have students fall asleep in class.
Alberta teen Madison Breckenridge sought help from Kirk after spending much of her days miserable and irritated, while finding it difficult to concentrate in school.
“I didn’t understand why when I did fall asleep I was still tired when I woke up,” said Breckenridge.
A two-week examination showed the 16-year-old was getting, on average, three hours of sleep each night while spending the remainder of the night texting.
By simply setting her phone to silent, Breckenridge said she is once again getting a restful sleep.
With eighthours of uninterrupted sleep vital to brain development, Kirk is one of a growing number of specialists who are urging parents to make electronics off limits at night.
“We know that children and adolescents are sleeping far less than they did 15 to 20 years ago partly because of these devices in their bedrooms,” said Dr. Indira Narang, director of sleep medicine at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.
“It affects learning, it affects memory and can also affect behaviour,” said Narang, adding that sleep-deprived teens are more irritable, aggressive and tend to experience higher levels of depression.
“The message to teenagers, parents, teachers, nurses, anybody who is involved in the health of children is that sleep routine is vital in children,” Narang said.
With a report from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip