We tend to think of our brains as either being awake or asleep. However, sometimes our thinking brain is fast asleep, yet, the portion of the mind that controls movement and motor skills could still be functioning.
An in-between state of consciousness often occurs when we’re disturbed from a deep sleep, just enough to elicit a physical response or prompt a habit, but not enough to wake us fully.
A prime example of this is sleep texting, which is the act of sending text messages while you’re unconscious. Fortunately, sleep texting disorder isn’t life-threatening, but it could damage your reputation. Below we’ll share some foolproof tips to help you avoid experiencing this unusual phenomenon.
What is Sleep Texting?
This condition involves unconsciously sending text messages when you’re not fully awake. The brain and body are in a state that’s not entirely conscious but not wholly asleep either. These types of people rarely initiate a text. Instead, they’ll respond to the sound their smartphone makes when they receive a message.
On autopilot, their body will answer the text message, often with eyes still closed. As you can imagine, the words usually don’t make sense. However, there are cases of people having complete and logical conversations via text message while they’re still asleep.
Before you laugh off this disorder as unlikely and ridiculous, note that experts report that the number of people who text while sleeping is growing. They theorize that smartphones have become such a big part of our lives, often attached to us 24/7, that they’re now “invading our subconscious.” In fact, according to the Journal of American College Health, over 25% of students reported sleep texting behavior along with poor sleep habits.
When the brain and body are stressed, restful sleep is more challenging. As a result, our sleep is often fragmented and fitful. Additionally, if your job is causing stress and you need your phone for work, according to research, you might be more likely to send texts without realizing.
Excess Daytime Activity
We’re all busy, but if your schedule is exceptionally hectic, your brain may not entirely shut down at night; this could make you send messages saying whatever’s on your subconscious mind.
According to research, Americans are now checking their phones 80 times each day, indicating an extreme attachment to our phones— that’s 10 times per hour of an eight-hour work day. If we’re as attached to our phones as the data reports, it’s likely becoming increasingly difficult for us to disconnect.
If you’re sleep-deprived, you may be suffering from a multitude of consequences without realizing it. Chronic sleep deprivation has been known to lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart failure. Further, dealing with physical ailments are often stressful on our minds as well, which could lead to a distracted mind come time for bed.
If a parent suffers from a sleep disorder (even if it’s not texting-related), their child could also inherit the condition. New research indicates sleep conditions are tied to genetics, meaning if your parent struggles with any parasomnia disorders, it’s probable you will also.
Frequent Interruptions in Sleep
When someone is in and out of consciousness, they’re more likely to engage in behaviors like texting, sleepwalking, sleeptalking, or even cooking meals. Similarly to what we touched on in regards to sleep deprivation, frequent interruptions will result in less restorative sleep, possibly impacting your ability to sleep soundly— therefore leaving you vulnerable to incoherent mid-night texting.
How to Prevent Sleep Texting Disorder
Turn Off Your Cellular Phone
The simplest and most effective solution is to turn off your smartphone altogether. However, we realize that may not be an option for all folks. They may be on call for work, expecting an important message, or have some other circumstance that requires them to have their phone on.
In cases like these, we recommend putting the phone on the other side of the room. That way, if it buzzes or rings, you’ll have to physically get out of bed to use it, prompting you to fully wake up— and text a conscious reply.
Put Your Phone in Silent Mode
Silent mode can be great for those looking to detach from their phones. However, this may be problematic for those who rely on their phone at night. Silencing your smartphone could be an effective way to stop texting while sleeping in its tracks. If your phone doesn’t go off, you’re less likely to send messages. We noted earlier that some people do initiate texting behavior. If that’s the case, then you may need to strongly consider shutting off the phone.
Place Your Phone at a Distance
For those who can’t turn off their mobile devices, putting the phone far away from the bed or in another room could be a practical solution. Then, when the phone buzzes, you won’t be able to reach for it blindly from your bed and begin having a conversation. Instead, you’d have to get up and walk several steps to respond.
Maintain Healthy Sleep Habits
We often engage in odd behavior when we’re sleep-deprived. The instances of parasomnias are more frequent when someone hasn’t gotten adequate sleep. Try your best to stick to a regular bedtime routine; go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning. Giving your body some regularity should help keep your circadian rhythm healthy and let you sleep easier.
Avoid Texting Immediately
While you’re awake, get in the habit of waiting to respond to texts. In today’s on-demand society, people often check and reply to texts as soon as they receive a notification. However, it might be beneficial to wait to check your phone and reply. When you do this behavior while you’re awake, you’ll be less likely to respond immediately when half-conscious because you’ve already trained yourself not to react to the buzz.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you consider it a disorder?
Any type of unusual or undesirable behavior while you’re sleeping is considered a parasomnia, which is otherwise known as a sleep disorder. It’s similar to sleepwalking because it involves performing a physical activity while not being awake. While not fatal, it can harm someone’s career or reputation if the person texts something unprofessional, rude, or revealing about themselves unintentionally.
How can you stop sleep texting?
The best way to stop is to turn off your phone or set it on silent mode when going to bed. If that’s not possible because you need to hear it for work or emergencies, put it as far away from your bed as you can. You’ll still be able to detect it if it rings, dings or buzzes, but you’ll have to get up to respond. While there’s no guarantee you’ll wake up, getting up could jar you enough so that you’re fully alert if you choose to answer the message.
Can it be linked to parasomnia?
This behavior is a type of parasomnia. A parasomnia is any type of abnormal behavior that someone does during sleep. The person may be semi-conscious during the episode, while their brain is not fully alert. Examples of other parasomnias include sleepwalking, sleep eating, teeth grinding, terrors, driving, and sex, to name a few.
Sources and References:
-  James Carmody, “Sleep Texting Is the New Sleep Talking – and It Could Get You in Trouble”, ABC News, December 24, 2017
-  “Interrupted Sleep: College Students Sleeping with Technology”, Taylor & Francis
-  “‘Sleep Texting' Cases Are Increasing Due to Stress: Technology & AI”, Healthcare Global
-  “Americans Check Their Smartphones 80 Times a DAY: STUDY,” TODAY.com
-  Brain and Spine Team, “Here's What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Sleep (and How Much You Really Need a Night)”, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, March 11, 2021
-  “Genetics of Sleepwalking”, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
-  “Parasomnias: Causes, Symptoms, Types & Management”, Cleveland Clinic
Rachael is a content writer for Sleep Advisor who loves combining her enthusiasm for writing and wellness. She’s had a passion for writing since she was a kid when she wrote awful poetry. She’s honed her craft quite a bit since then and considers herself a lucky duck to get paid to do what she loves.
Embracing the remote work life, she occasionally takes her work on the road and lives out her travel writer pipe dream.
In her free time, she attempts to meditate regularly, rides her bike to Trader Joe’s, and enjoys trying every type of food that she can get her hands on.