For most people, sleeping is a time when you lie down, rest your head and stay there until you wake up again. But for a select few, it can be a time when they eat, talk and… apparently, text.
That’s the major takeaway from a new Villanova University study. For the study, which was published in the Journal of American College Health, researchers surveyed 372 students at two separate universities in 2013 on their sleep quality and cellphone use while they slept.
Participants were asked about how many hours they slept at night and where they kept their phone, among other things.
Here’s what the researchers found: More than 25 percent of the people surveyed said they texted in their sleep, and of them, 72 percent didn’t remember actually doing this (until, presumably, they looked at their phone the next day).
The people who engaged in sleep texting were more likely to say that they got interrupted sleep and kept their phone in bed with them.
The survey also had an open-ended question whereby students could talk about how they dealt with sleep texting.
One student said she went as far as to wear mittens to bed to keep her from texting since “moving the phone from being in my bed to next to the bed is not an option, I have to keep my phone with me.”
The good news: Most people reported that their sleep texts are total gibberish.
Apparently this isn’t just limited to the students in the survey — plenty of other people shared on social media that they sleep text:
— sanseru (@BrennanElinor) November 24, 2018
I was asleep & my mom texted our gc asking us what we want for Christmas and while i was SLEEPING i responded “to be appreciated” like damn .. i’m even depressed in my sleep
— Jez (@Jezikaa_) December 3, 2018
All apologies to anyone I texted last night during my fight while high on sleep meds.
— Austin Lucas (@AustinlucasIND) November 28, 2018
my sleep texting is really get out of control and i need help
— alexis sloyer (@leexxayy3) December 1, 2018
apparently sleep texting is not my strong suit… (yes I fall asleep before 7) haha pic.twitter.com/0Ww8GmRZfo
— justy (@justyhanson) November 29, 2018
I was so tired last night I passed out at 8pm and I woke up this morning to find out I was sleep texting 🤦🏽♀️😭 pic.twitter.com/boArVUdLdU
— Brooklynn Mae Rowse (@BrooklynnMaeR) November 28, 2018
This is why I have to stop texting in my sleep 🙃🙃 pic.twitter.com/BnYXxdbTjf
— Emily Berogan (@emilyberogan2) November 23, 2018
It’s experiences like these that led Elizabeth Dowdell, the lead author of the Villanova study, to initiate it. Dowdell told Yahoo Lifestyle that several of her undergraduate students talked about how they texted in their sleep. “I thought, well, this is very interesting,” she says.
Most of the students who sleep texted were female, Dowdell says, and most of them said that they checked their phone in the morning to see if they had texted in their sleep. “The majority were unwilling to turn off their phone at night,” she says. “Some students even said that the behaviour started in high school.”
So, what exactly causes this?
“There are probably a couple of things going on with people who text in their sleep,” board-certified sleep medicine researcher and neurologist W. Christopher Winter, MD, of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of the book The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “A small percentage of these people probably have a parasomnia, which is an abnormal wakening during deep sleep. But instead of walking or eating things they don’t remember, they’re texting.”
Another explanation is that people don’t usually start to form memories right away when they’re awakened out of a deep sleep, Winter says. “We can have automatic behaviour,” he explains. “That’s why you can have a conversation with your partner in the middle of the night, not remember the first part, and wake up when you’re already into the conversation.”
Finally, drinking alcohol before bed can play a role. “Alcohol can absolutely influence both behaviours and having that sort of amnesia for what you’re doing,” Winter says.
To decrease the odds that you’ll text someone in your sleep, Winter recommends getting your phone out of your bed “and, really, out of your proximity.”
If you like to keep your phone in your bedroom, Winter recommends putting it across the room from where you sleep. That way, if you decide to answer a text in the middle of the night, you’ll have to go through several motions that should wake you up, like getting out of bed and walking across a cool floor. “That’s really important,” he says.
Keeping your phone on silent so that it doesn’t wake you up is also a good idea, Winter says. And, if you’re really struggling with sleep texting, you can get a phone lock that requires you to do a math problem or pattern that would be hard to replicate in your sleep, he says.
“Who controls technology? We control it. We’re the ones who turn it on and we’re the ones who turn it off,” adds Dowdell. “If you can’t turn it off, consider putting some boundaries around it like sleep mode or program it so that only certain people can text through at night. Also, don’t sleep with your phone in bed.”
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