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Teens, Smartphones, and Poor Sleep

Tuesday, 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.