Don't Recall Sending That Message? Maybe You're 'Sleep Texting'
(CNN) -- If you have a smartphone, you may have felt
the embarrassment of sending a private message to the wrong person or
having autocorrect fail you at just the wrong time.
But some people
experience a different kind of messaging mishap, one they may not even
remember doing. And no, they're not drunk-dialing.
While hard data is
lacking on this cultural trend, the anecdotal evidence has been mounting
over the past few years. Twitter users regularly recount the loopy
messages they've sent with the hashtag #sleeptexting. "There are texts
sent from my phone at 5am that I do not recall sending," said one tweet.
Another said, "I should stop sleeping next to my phone."
Others post Twitpics and
Instagram photos showing their bizarre or garbled messages, some of
which are more gibberish than actual words. One woman told CNN affiliate WQAD last year that she had a sleep-texting disorder.
Whereas some people might
"get up and go get something out of the refrigerator" while in a state
of sleep, said Dr. Jim Fulop, the corporate medical director for
OhioHealth Sleep Services, others "grab their smartphone, which is right
next to them, and they may text or do other things."
The idea of unlocking a
smartphone, opening a texting app and then typing something while asleep
may sound far-fetched, but the "sleep-texting" term is a little
misleading. It's more like "half-asleep" texting, as doctors describe it
as a state of rest where a person isn't fully awake.
"It's like your brain is
on autopilot," explained Dr. Shelby Harris, director of behavioral sleep
medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "Think about the
rate at which people are texting nowadays, and most people sleep right
next to (their phones), so if they wake up it's another automatic
behavior. ... This is sort of a form of sleepwalking, that's kind of the
way that I look at it."
Unlike sleepwalking, which can be dangerous, sleep-texting tends to be a habit that can be easily laughed off.
Kayla Potega, 23, saved
one of her sleep texts to her boyfriend because "it was so outrageous,"
she said. Potega, a healthy-living blogger in Rockford, Illinois, first
noticed she was sleep-texting a few years ago. She said she rarely does
it but when she does, she seems to only text her boyfriend.
"I don't know (why it
happens)," Potega said, although she has a theory that its root may be
her desire to communicate whatever she'd been dreaming about.
"I think it's driven by
the fact that I want to tell (my boyfriend) these dreams, but I'm still
kind of asleep, so I just reach for the phone and text him regardless of
what it is, and I have no recollection of doing it all," Potega said.
"The last one, I remember I was trying to give him some sort of advice
... It ended up being something like, 'just because your brain is a cast
iron skillet, doesn't mean your body is.'"
Fulop and Harris say
younger generations appear to be more susceptible to sleep-texting. For
young professionals, sometimes their jobs require them to respond to
texts and e-mails late into the night.
And teens, "they're
texting constantly," Fulop said. "They feel they can spend the middle of
the night communicating with their friends; it's part of their
behavior. ... They don't intend to text, but they sleep-text because
they wake up confused, they grab (their phone) and they're off mumbling
in the text message."
Dr. Elizabeth Dowdell, a
professor of pediatric nursing at Villanova University's College of
Nursing, heard the same thing as she was researching Internet risk
behaviors and the victimization of children and adolescents.
"I think for many
adolescents and young adults, technology has provided us another avenue
of sleep walking, (or) talking in our sleep. People have answered the
phone, the good old-fashioned landline, in their sleep. That's not
particularly new," Dowdell said. "What we're seeing now is younger
people experiencing this."
Adults can typically
shrug off sleep-texting with a laugh or an apology, but there could be
greater consequences for adolescents. Texting is interrupting their
sleep at an age when they need it most, and they could be more
vulnerable to thier unintentional oversharing being posted for others to
If you're a sleep texter
or afraid of becoming one, the easiest and best solutions are the most
obvious: Turn off your phone, set your passcode lock or place it on the
other side of the room so it's not within easy reach.
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