Sleep texting is becoming an all too common parasomnia. It’s right up there with sleepwalking. It affects mostly teenagers and young adults as well as all of us who can’t live without our smartphones. Sleep texting fragments sleep and may point to additional sleep disorders. Sleep disorders are especially a concern in teens and young adults because their developing brains lack restful NREM or memory enhancing REM sleep.
Reading and responding to text messages while asleep — called “sleep texting” — is an abnormal sleep behavior. It’s also a growing concern among doctors grappling with a sleep-deprived population: young people who can’t be separated from their cellphones.
We tend to think of sleep in finite terms: You’re either fully awake or fully asleep. But it’s not that simple, said Dr. Andrew Stiehm, a sleep medicine specialist with Allina Health.
It’s possible for the part of the brain that controls motor skills to wake up, while the part of the brain that governs memory and judgment may remain asleep. That’s why some people can perform rote movements — such as walking, talking, texting or even driving — while they’re sleeping.
Dr. Gerald Rosen, medical director of the pediatric sleep disorders program at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, considers sleep texting an automatic response, similar to how a mother responds to a baby crying in the middle of the night.