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Text tonight, trouble tomorrow (11/3/10)

November 3, 2010

The Electronic Life

The cyborg future is here.

Last week I wrote on “Your kid’s new ‘favorite’ bed partner”  – the cell phone.  It now appears the era of “mobile computing” is creating mass immobility.

Kids are texting like crazy at night – in bed.

The Pew Memorial Trust survey I quoted had 82% of kids aged 12-17 taking their cellphones to bed with them.  Now there  has appeared  a pilot study of what electronic use does at night.

The study – 40 kids coming to the JFK Sleep Clinic in New Jersey, reported at the American College of Chest Physicians

Ages – 8-22

Cell phone use – 33.5 texts on average each night

Percentage having trouble falling asleep – 77.5

Effect of age – the older the person, the later to bed, the more texts sent

Sex – Boys prefer instant messaging and games, girls texting

Diagnoses related to night-time electronic use – higher rates of ADHD, anxiety, depression, learning difficulties in the day – and far more insomnia and leg pain at night

Short Term Versus  Long Term

This is a small one shot survey questionnaire study, performed at a sleep center where the participants came in already experiencing sleep problems.  Remarkably, the kids do not seem to have recognized their frequent texting and messaging as causing their sleep/day problems.  Texting 33 times a night must now seem pretty normal to lots of kids.

The long term implications are not small.  When kids sleep less they learn less; gain more weight; have high rates of depression, and higher rates of attempted suicide.  Perhaps the use of highly lit cell phones is resetting their body clocks later and later, making them sleep through morning classes.

There are many other public health implications. At this stage we don’t know how many kids will get caught in the “Up Down Trap” of depressants (like antihistamines)  to sleep and stimulants to stay up in the day.  We do know that use of “energy drinks” is rapidly expanding among young people (you can see more about this in my article “The Caffeine Wars” at Huffington Post.)

We don’t know what proximity to all these electronics will ultimately do to brain and whole body electrical transmissions.  If it is something bad, chances are we’ll find out quite late.

We don’t know how powerfully cognitive interruptions throughout the night will  affect learning, long term memory, general attention and creativity in the daytime – but the present omens are bad.

What is clear is this is no way to prepare the future generation for work, learning, and economic leadership. Nor does it work for their adult parents, who more and more find themselves texting and messaging through the night.

Night Into Day

People like to push the envelope. Some run for 24 hours, others eat until they can stuff themselves no longer.  Yet flipping day into night, as occurs with texting and light in the wee hours, is unnatural.  We are daytime creatures.

Most times we defy nature, the results are highly  unfavorable.  We know that sleep loss will affect learning, memory, health, weight, levels of pain, creativity and pleasure.

Except many young people don’t know that.  Letting them find out the hard way is wrong.

Eventually they will discover that nature strikes back.  Day cannot be exchanged for night.  Rest is regeneration.

Without regeneration we lose our health – and much of what we value.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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