For the first time in history, we have adolescents that have never known an age without cell phones, tablets and computers. These marvels of technology have been a part of their lives from birth and they spend an extraordinary amount of time engaged with them.
All their texting, posting and web surfing is robbing teens of the much needed sleep they need to think and function clearly, according to a new study.
Experts say teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep a night to be engaged and productive during the day. Anything less can cause daytime sleepiness and interfere with school or daily activities.
How much sleep is today’s teen actually getting? Researchers analyzed a pair of long-term, national surveys of more than 360,000 eighth- through 12th-graders to find out.
One survey asked 8th-10th- and 12th-graders how often they got at least seven hours of sleep. The other asked high school students how long they slept on a typical school night.
In 2015, 4 out of 10 teens slept less than seven hours a night. That's up 58 percent since 1991 and 17 percent more than in 2009 when smartphone use started becoming more mainstream, the researchers said.
"Teens' sleep began to shorten just as the majority started using smartphones. It's a very suspicious pattern," said study leader Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University.
The more time students reported spending online, the less sleep they got, according to the recent study published in the journal Sleep Medicine.
Teens that were online more than five hours a day were 50 percent more likely to be sleep-deprived than classmates who limited their time online to about an hour.
Studies have shown that the light emitted by smartphones and tablets can interrupt the body’s natural sleep –wake cycle. The bright light can make the brain think that it’s daylight and time to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that cues to the body to sleep. By disrupting melatonin production, smartphone light can disrupt your sleep cycle, almost like an artificially induced jet lag. That makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
If smartphones, tablets and computers are one of the causes for teens’ sleep deprivation, experts agree that moderate use can help change that. Everyone -- young and old alike -- should limit use to two hours each day, the researchers advised in a San Diego State University news release.
It’s not only the light from smartphones that can disrupt your ability to fall asleep, but the content you’re reading. Social media has a way of pulling teens into a discourse or “following” marathon that can eat up those precious hours of rest.
The best solution for electronic sleep deprivation is to make sure your teen puts his or her phone away and shuts down the tablet or computer at least an hour before bedtime.
Story sources: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, https://teens.webmd.com/news/20171020/smartphones-screens-sabotaging-teens-sleep
Kevin Loria, Skye Gould, http://www.businessinsider.com/how-smartphone-light-affects-your-brain-and-body-2017-7