Do you "text" so much you could send messages with your eyes closed? You might be doing just that. New research from Villanova University finds that "sleep texting" is very common among students.
Messages sent by slumbering uber-communicators are typically gibberish, says Villanova University nursing professor Elizabeth Dowdell, who conducted the research on sleep texting.
For example, a student might send a sleepy text responding to a fellow student who is awake, and anxious about an upcoming test, asking what might be covered on the exam. "The person who is asleep will respond with things that don't make sense, 'go get me that pizza,' or 'I need my hair cut,'" said Dowdell.
Dowdell studied nearly 400 college students. Close to a third reported that they had sent messages while asleep. This typically happens in the early phases of sleep -- and with people who take their phones into bed with them. Sleepers may also be waking up for a short moment, and then send off a message while only half-conscious.
Aside from potential embarrassment, Dowdell says sleep texting is a problem because it robs students of much needed rest and can hinder getting to deeper sleep cycles.
"They hear it, they respond to it, they answer it, whether they are awake or not," she said. "This is an age group that has a well-earned reputation for not getting good sleep, and if they are texting in their sleep, they are not getting quality sleep."
Technology does murder sleep
Her message is simple: "You control the technology, don't let the technology control you. Sleep is important!"
She says phones should not be in bed; ideally, they should be turned off at night, or at least put on a night stand. But for those who just have to have their phone right on the pillow, Dowdell's students have adopted a preventive measure.
"They now wear mittens when they go to sleep," she said. "Because you can't text with mittens on."
Embarrassing late-night messaging aside, University of Pennsylvania sleep researcher Michael Grandner says technology is increasingly invading the bedroom, and making it harder for people to sleep.
He says many people check their phones compulsively throughout the day. They might do the same if they briefly wake up during the night, and the phone is right there, next to them.
"Think about it this way," he said. "There will not be anything on the phone that will make it easier for you to go back to sleep. It will either be something that you find interesting, or something that you will worry about."
He said phones and digital devices increasingly come up in conversations about sleep, and the quality of rest people are getting.