Restless Teens Texting More, Sleeping Less, and Struggling

July 22, 2009 08:00 AM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
Sleep deprivation and lack of quiet time has led to a growing trend of hyperactivity and other ills among teens.

Sleep Disorders On the Rise in Teens

Today, texting, using video games, Facebook, MySpace and other social media channels is as natural for teenagers as eating or sleeping. But for some teens, so much technology has proven distracting and has interfered with their sleep, leading to health problems such as crankiness, headaches, weakened immune systems and impaired concentration, The Sacramento Bee reports.

According to a 2008 study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “85 percent of teens communicate through text messaging, instant messages, e-mail and social networking sites.” As Dr. Myrza Perez, a specialist in sleep disorders, suggests, youngsters may get so immersed in technology that they interrupt their natural body patterns. “Cell phones, computer screens and even televisions emit light rays that keep you awake. Light automatically stimulates the retinas. Before bed, people should turn off those devices and switch to a quieter, healthier activity, like reading,” she told The Sacramento Bee.

The symptoms of sleep disorders may be difficult to diagnose, since they are common to various conditions. According to WebMD, symptoms of sleep disorders may include poor concentration and focus, memory difficulties, impaired motor coordination and irritability, among others. These daytime symptoms usually lead people to seek medical help, unaware of the underlying problem. "The patients don't realize it's a sleep problem, and their physicians don't realize it's a sleep problem, so they get treated and diagnosed as daytime problems when that's not the case," Dr. Amer Khan explained to The Sacramento Bee.

For many teenagers, however, the best cure for this condition is simply to turn their cell phones off at night and get an adequate amount of rest. Fortunately, some wireless carriers enable parents to restrict kids' cellphone use, including limiting the hours a phone may be used.  PC Magazine recently explain how to access parental controls with several major carriers.

Background: How today’s teens use media

Earlier this month, 15-year-old Matthew Robson, an intern at Morgan Stanley in London, released a report on how teenagers today use different types of modern media. According to Robson, teens consume multiple platforms at once, choosing selectively but also considering costs. In terms of phone usage, Robson explains that “Usually, teenagers only use their phone for texting, calling. Features such as video messaging or video calling are not used—because they are expensive, (you can get four regular texts for the price of one video message).”

Background: Quiet Time: Why We Need It and How to Get It >

Related Topic: Should Texting While Walking Be Banned? >

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