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Teens, Smartphones, and Poor Sleep

December 1st, 2015

By Dominic Yeboah, Pharmacy Student Cedarville University

Technology has evolved tremendously over the past few years.  The use of cell phones, tablets, and computers among children and adolescents is also on the rise. Schools also use technology in the classroom to help with teaching and learning. Cell phone use, especially texting in middle school through high school is on the rise.1,2 Teenagers are often on their phones using the Internet or texting, especially at bedtime. It was reported in the New York Daily News that 57% of teenagers texted while in bed, and an additional 21% were awoken by text.1  This has led to kids and teenagers, especially those in high school and middle school, getting an inadequate amount of sleep.1

A recent study analyzed the impact of communication technology on teenagers’ mood, cognition and daytime functioning. The study was a cross-sectional study in a Middlesex county school district in New Jersey.  It involved a total population of 3,139 with the ages ranging between 12-17. The study reported that the use of smartphones in this age group has increased by 14% between 2011 and 2013, with texting, use of the Internet, social media activities, and online gaming reporting highest use.2

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The results indicated that close to 62% of teens used a smart phone or tablet after bedtime, 56.7% texted or tweeted messages in bed, and 20.8% were awoken by texts messages. Continuous wakening to use and check cell phones led to changes in sleep pattern and in some cases insomnia. Teenagers may not be able to go back to sleep because they end up texting or checking other social media when they are awaken from sleep.3,5  The inadequate night-sleep has led to daytime sleepiness, academic problems, mood swings, aggressive behaviors, increased risk of accidents, as well as an increase risk of substance abuse.4-7 Studies have also shown that reduced sleep time can contribute to obesity in children which may also lead to an increase in type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases later in life.3,8

Reasonable limitations and appropriate smart phone and tablet use are very important. Maintaining good sleep hygiene can prevent the effects listed above. It is essential for teenagers to practice good and effective sleep hygiene. Therefore, non-pharmacological treatment is the most appropriate and desired form of treatment. This includes making choices at bedtime that will foster a good night sleep such as maintaining a cool and quiet sleeping space, eliminating all use of electronics (especially cell phones, tablets or television), eliminating bright lights, and decreasing caffeine intake before bedtime.9

Parents of teenagers who still have problems with insomnia after trying and implementing proper sleep hygiene  (non-pharmacological treatment) may consult their child’s primary care provider for further evaluation.

Reference

  1. Robins B(2015). Late night texting is linked to insomnia and poor grades, study finds. New York Daily News.
  2. Polos P, Bhat S, Gupta D, O’Malley R, Debari V, Upadhyay H, et al (2015). The impact of Sleep Time-Related Information and Communication Technology (STRICT) on sleep patterns and daytime functioning in American adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 232-244.
  3. Krinsky DL, Berardi RR, Ferreri SP, et al. Handbook of nonprescription Drug: An Interactive Approach to Self-care. 18th Washington, D.C.: American Pharmacists Association; 2015: 853-860.
  4. Institute CM, Gary J. (2014). What happens when teenagers don’t get enough sleep | child mind institute. Available at: http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2014-7-1-consequences-teenage-sleep-deprivation (Accessed: 17 November 2015).
  5. Fossum IN, Nordnes LT, Storemark SS, Bjorvatn B, Pallesen S. The association between use of electronic media in bed before going to sleep and insomnia symptoms, daytime sleepiness, morningness, and chronotype. Behave Sleep Med. 2014; 12(5): 343-57.
  6. Chung KF, Cheung MM. Sleep-wake patterns and sleep disturbance among Hong Kong Chinese adolescents. Sleep. 2008; 31(2): 185-94.
  7. Asarnow LD, Mcglinchey E, Harvey AG. The effects of bedtime and sleep duration on academic and emotional outcomes in a nationally representative sample of adolescents. J Adolescent Health. 2014; 54(3): 350-6.
  8. Chaput JP. Is sleep deprivation a contributor to obesity in children?. Eat Weight Disord. 2015;
  9. Lemola S, Perkinson-gloor N, Brand S, Dewald-kaufmann JF, Grob A. Adolescents’ electronic media use at night, sleep disturbance, and depressive symptoms in the smartphone age. J Youth Adolesc. 2015;44(2):405-18.

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21 Responses to “Teens, Smartphones, and Poor Sleep”

  1. Abby Savino Says:

    Great job! I know that I am guilty of using my phone before going to bed and in high school I would wake up whenever it buzzed and had the worst sleep schedule. There have also been stories, not medically related, where someone put their phone under their pillow while charging it over night and the phone overheated, started smoking, and burnt their bed. Sometimes it is nice to be disconnected from your phone for a little while and have a normal sleep schedule especially in Pharmacy school.

  2. Katie Woodard Says:

    Hey Dominic, this is a great article! I wondered when I read this if there have been studies which examine the sleep changes in adults who use smart phones. For instance, I wonder if adults are equally as willing as teenagers to sacrifice their sleep and spend more time on the phone.

  3. Caleb Thompson Says:

    This is a great and informative article. Did you find any information indicating a recommended amount of time before bed that electronic use should be discontinued? Does smart phone or tablet use immediately before bedtime produce the same results?

  4. Hannah Chittenden Says:

    This was a very interesting article. This is not 100% related, but one thing it reminded me of was when I was in high school I had multiple people come tell me that sleeping with your cell phone can cause cancer. I was wondering if you ran across any of this type of information in your research. Is it just a wive’s tale, or did you find any research on this topic? With that being said, it did surprise me at all of the other health consequences to having your phone with you at night, such as the obesity, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

  5. Morgan Says:

    I thought that this article really pertained to our lives on a college campus. I know that I am guilty of being on my phone when going to bed and I have never really thought of the repercussions that this might have on my sleep. I do feel like making people aware of this problem is great, but I wonder how you would be able to convience students in high school and college to stop this habit? I think that with the increasing amount of children getting phones at young ages, these bad habits like this may increase even more!

  6. Akwasi O Appiah Says:

    Great effort! Getting quality sleep at the right time is good for our mental and physical health. Sleep helps the brain to think properly. As a student, adequate sleep is good for my health and helps me to be productive at school and work as well as functioning well throughout the day.

  7. Brandon Spears Says:

    I thought that this article was very well written and informative, and really addressed a relevant topic of concern in today’s society. I know of many people who seem to not ever get in bed without their phone. What I was wondering, Dominic, was if you came across anything in your research talking about kids not being able to sleep not so much because of physically being awoken by texts or by actively tweeting but because they cannot stop thinking about social media and texting? Basically are kids so wrapped up in what they are going to post or text the next day or when they get up that they cannot relax their minds enough to fall asleep? I feel that an overactive mind at night caused by overuse of social media would be an interesting theory to explore.

  8. Caleb H VanDyke Says:

    This is one of the times I am grateful I use a phone as much as I totally would be one of the people checking it constantly. I know it is slightly off topic, but its interesting to find that TV/Computer also disrupts the sleep cycle if watching it before bed. I would’ve expected that “shutting” your brain down from thinking while being a couch potato would have encouraged sleep habits. Thanks for the great article reminding all of us to unplug before bed!

  9. Travis Mentch Says:

    This brought light to a topic that is commonly ignored by the majority of people, including those who know they have issues sleeping. I would be interested in knowing more about why the lack of sleep quality caused by the use of electronics at bedtime leads to increased risk of substance abuse. To integrate self-care knowledge, I think an appropriate recommendation to teens attempting to readjust their habits would be the use of melatonin. You touched on some things that would be beneficial to change in the sleep environment, but I think it would also be helpful to better define “sleep hygiene”.

  10. Ankit Pandav Says:

    This is a great article and one that I can definitely relate to. I know that major phone carrier such as AT&T are addressing texting while driving issue among teens and adults, so I wonder if the phone companies or carriers are aware of this issue. If so, what are they doing to address this issue?

  11. Emily Bruce Says:

    I know I am definitely guilty of using my phone and computer in bed. I guess I never thought about what it was doing to my sleep. I thought it was interesting that this behavior leads to type II diabetes. I wonder if this happens because of the use of caffeine to help stay awake. I wonder if they have done a study on whether or not these kids are developing arthritis in their hands at a younger age because of all the texting.

  12. James Baffoe Says:

    Everybody that uses a cell phone can relate to this. I find this article to be interesting.I always complain about me not getting enough sleep and will go back to using my phone when it time from sleep. And it is intriguing how sleep can lead to type II diabetes. Did you research on how this is possible?

  13. Sam Franklin Says:

    Excellent writing! I wondered if you considered what about phones keep us us at night. For example, I believe that it’s mostly blue light that messes with our sleep cycles, so there’s some phone apps that filter it out. I use it on my phone, and I never have trouble falling asleep. Also, did you read anything about sleep cycle trackers? Some apps try to wake you up at the optimal time, so phones may actual be able to improve sleep if used correctly.

  14. Kofi Amoah Says:

    After reading this article, I think I need to slow down on the use of gadgets before going to sleep. For me, those few hours before bed can feel like a scarce resource, and the idea of limiting technology use during that time sounds unimaginable . But then, loosing sleep over them is not worth it!
    Did you find anything about the effect of the lights from the devices on our melatonin?

  15. freddie Says:

    Very practical article. As far as technology use has help solved and improve many aspects of human life, it has also gone a long way of affecting not only sleeping pattern but also diminishing the value of human relationship. Many individuals especially students spend more time on electronics media (i Pad, phones, laptops, social media) than among friends, parents and even loved ones . Is mostly difficult to even get the attention of someone who is so passionate about an electronic media. This to some extend has destroy relationship and even marriage. From personal experience, the longer I stay on the phone at night, I begin to have pain in my ears. So I agree is not advisable.

  16. Belinda Darkwah Says:

    It is very fascinating to see the effects of technology on sleep. I have heard of many cases where teens accidentally fall asleep while using their phone and it slips under the pillow and causes a small electrical fire. I did not know that individuals are waking up mid-sleep cycle all because their phone has some new alert. I am wondering if health care professionals should now counsel patients who are experiencing daytime sleepiness and/or insomnia on the use of cell phones before bed. How can we as future pharmacist incorporate that into patient care?

  17. Kofi Amoah Says:

    Great job on this article, Dominic! Advanced technology definitely has pros and cons, and this is a perfect example of some of the cons associated with the use of electronics (cell phones), posing a risk to the health of teens. I am still trying to dig deeper into how insomnia can lead to type II diabetes in a later life. I would love to see more studies in the future that will address or prove that insomnia can leads to obesity, and eventually to diabetes. Although I am aware that obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, I also know that there is a genetic component to the development of type II diabetes, in addition to poor lifestyle behaviors such as sedentary living, eating foods that are too high in carbohydrates and sugars. I guess this article can create an area in research that student pharmacists like ourselves can try to explore.

  18. Akwasi O Appiah Says:

    Also, I would like to know more about how reduced sleep time can contribute to obesity in children which may also lead to an increase in type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases later in life?

  19. Elizabeth Aziz Says:

    Hello Dominic! Thanks for the great and relevant article! I know that I use my cell phone and laptop before I go to bed. I can plan ahead to sleep at a certain time, and I have found that my electronic devices have hindered me from sleeping. I could stay up almost an hour or two later past the time I planned. I also relate to be woken up from notifications from social media sites or text messages. I think an interesting direction from this type of information is how this effects students and their schoolwork.” Does using electronic devices before bed effect school performance?” would be an interesting topic to look into. Great job on your post it was a very interesting read!

  20. Matthew Madden Says:

    Dominic, you did a great job compiling the information for this! It was extremely interesting to see the correlation between being on your phone or laptop at night, and sleep issues. Personally, I have been waken up many times by my phone vibrating due to new messages or notifications; I had never really thought it could be impacting my sleep that much. I found the statistic about developing type 2 diabetes due to a lack of sleep quite interesting. You wouldn’t think something so seemingly small could potentially lead to such grave effects. Great article!

  21. Insang Yang Says:

    The topic is interesting enough to grab an attention, since cellphone use is the one of the side effect of technological development. Having adequate amount of sleep is important for children, adolescent and pharmacy students. I usually check my smartphone before i go to sleep to check my email and to check my schedule. However, we as pharmacist students usually go to bed so late, and we check our cellphone before we go to sleep so the using smart phone at bed time might be a habit. Thus for some of us, smartphone is not the primary cause of staying up so late, so it would be helpful to include how much time kids spend on smartphone before they go to bed will be great information.

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