Does Your Teen IM at Lights Out? Check His Grades

I know it should come as no surprise.  But teens who text at night do not do as well in school as those who don't.

A new study has shown that teens who text at night pay a price in both their sleep (okay, so we knew that) but also, wait for it, their academic performance, too.

Now that's a little scary.

The study is the first of its kind to link nighttime instant messaging habits of American teenagers to sleep health and school performance, according to newswise.com.

“We need to be aware that teenagers are using electronic devices excessively and have a unique physiology,” says study author Xue Ming, professor of neuroscience and neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “They tend to go to sleep late and get up late. When we go against that natural rhythm, students become less efficient.”

 Think about it.  I've been getting up before dawn (4:45 yesterday and 3:30 today, though the garbage men woke me anyway) to finish a project with a tight deadline, and that has affected me.  Granted, I'm much older than the kids but I suspect their brains feel a little squashed, like mine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that media use among children of all ages is increasing exponentially; studies have found that children ages 8 to 18 use electronic devices approximately seven-and-a-half hours daily.

Ming’s research is part of a small but growing body of evidence on the negative effects of electronics on sleep and school performance. But few studies, Ming says, have focused specifically on instant messaging.
“During the last few years I have noticed an increased use of smartphones by my patients with sleep problems,” Ming says. “I wanted to isolate how messaging alone – especially after the lights are out – contributes to sleep-related problems and academic performance.”

In the study, she found that students who turned off their devices or who messaged for less than 30 minutes after lights out performed significantly better in school than those who messaged for more than 30 minutes after lights out.

Students who texted longer in the dark also slept fewer hours and were sleepier during the day than those who stopped messaging when they went to bed. Texting before lights out did not affect academic performance, the study found.

 The effects of “blue light” emitted from smartphones and tablets are intensified when viewed in a dark room, Ming says. This short wavelength light can have a strong impact on daytime sleepiness symptoms since it can delay melatonin release, making it more difficult to fall asleep – even when seen through closed eyelids.

“When we turn the lights off, it should be to make a gradual transition from wakefulness to sleep,” Ming says. “If a person keeps getting text messages with alerts and light emission, that also can disrupt his circadian rhythm. Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the period during sleep most important to learning, memory consolidation and social adjustment in adolescents. When falling asleep is delayed but rising time is not, REM sleep will be cut short, which can affect learning and memory.”










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