What a nightmare: Sleep texting

Claudine Zap
·Claudine Zap

Status update: ZZZZZZ.

Some smartphone addicts are texting and updating social media even when they’re asleep.

A report from KOMONews.com suggests that “sleep texting” is a growing trend — and a total nightmare. The behavior can interrupt sleep patterns, not to mention lead to awkward conversations when friends ask about the cryptic “Bdghj63g+x” text from 3 a.m.

Elizabeth Dowdell, a nursing professor at Villanova University, heard anecdotal accounts from her students and decided to see if it was a common phenomenon. In April 2013 she conducted a class survey. Out of almost 400 students, nearly one-third admitted to texting while asleep, Dowdell told Yahoo News on the phone.

Not surprisingly, the activity happens with people who take their phones to bed with them. “The more technology in the bedroom, the less sleep and the less quality of sleep,” she said.

Students might wake up for a moment, alerted by the beep of an incoming message, and text while only half-conscious. Messages are usually gibberish, she said.

“Believe it or not, it is happening,” she said. “We have a population that has a well-earned reputation for being sleep-deprived young adults. When sleep is becoming interrupted by texting, it is a poor quality of sleep.”

Dr. Lina Fine, who specializes in sleep neurology and psychiatry at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., told Yahoo News that this behavior usually affects “people who are extremely savvy and well-versed in social media or use it as part of their job or have to be online a lot.” Fine said she has noticed patients mentioning the trend just in the past two years. Although it's on the rise, Fine said, "it's a rare condition." 

“What I think it points to [is] how fragmented people’s sleep has become,” she added.

So, what’s a phone zombie to do? One solution is to physically separate yourself from your phone at bedtime. Even if the phone can’t be too far away, at least make it hard to get to, suggests Dr. William J. DePaso, a sleep medicine specialist at Virginia Mason Medical Center, also in Seattle.

DePaso explained that people who text while asleep could actually be awake at the time. “They have to be awake for 30 seconds to remember they’re awake,” said DePaso. “They could be fully conscious and doing it and going back to asleep. But they’re drowsy. So the text might be garbled and not fully represent what they meant to say.”

Twitter even has a hashtag to document the trend: #sleeptext.

@kelsie_sutton18, wrote,

“I really need to stop sleep texting people.”

Bailey Ross(@baileyrossss) copped to an unusual conversation:

Nothin like texting while your asleep, apparently I was tryin to tell someone about some free hot pads? # sleeptext pic.twitter.com/WMuQGSkjbf.

Brianna Oliveira (‏@BriBriOlie) posted,

“Some people wake up embarrassed by what they drunk text, but not me. I wake up embarrassed by my 1/2 asleep texts!”

Embarrassed is one thing — risking death is another. Last month, a New Zealand woman allegedly texted while driving — and sleeping behind the wheel. Fortunately she didn’t get into an accident.

Don’t just lock your phone at night. Hide your car keys, too. Sweet dreams.