We tend to think of our brains as either being awake or asleep. But, it turns out that this gray matter also has a gray area when it comes to consciousness. Sometimes our thinking brain is fast asleep, yet the portion of it that controls movement and fine motor skills could be completely awake.
Often this state of in-between occurs when something disturbs our rest just enough to elicit a physical response or habit, but not enough to fully wake us up. A prime example of this is sleep texting, which is the act of sending text messages while you’re asleep. If this sounds horrifying and potentially life-threatening to your reputation and social calendar, it is.
Fortunately, sleep texting disorder isn’t physically fatal, and we’ll share some foolproof tips to help you avoid experiencing it.
What is Sleep Texting?
This condition involves sending text messages to people when you’re not fully awake. The brain and body are in a state that’s not fully awake, but not entirely asleep either. It’s rare that the person with this disorder initiates 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 are often gibberish, especially with the invention of autocorrect. However, there are cases of people having full and logical conversations via text message while they’re still asleep.
Before you laugh off this disorder as unlikely and ridiculous, note that doctors are reporting 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.”
When the brain and body are stressed, getting and staying the deepest stages of sleep is more challenging. Rest is often fragmented and fitful. To add to this factor, if your job is causing stress and you need your phone for work, you could be even more likely to send texts without realizing it.
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.
If you’re sleep-deprived, you may find that you’re not spending enough hours in SWS or slow-wave sleep. The result is that it’s easier for outside noises and stimuli to interrupt your slumber. It might not be enough to make you fully alert, but it could be enough to trigger you to reach for your phone and type away.
If a parent suffers from a sleep disorder (even if it’s not texting-related), their child could also inherit the condition.
Frequent Interruptions in Sleep
When someone is in and out of consciousness, they’re more likely to engage in behaviors like texting, sleepwalking, and even waking up halfway to cook a meal.
How to Prevent Sleep Texting Disorder
Turn Off Your Cellular Phone
The simplest and most effective solution is to turn off your smartphone. However, some people can’t do that. They may be on call for work, expecting an important phone call 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. While there’s no guarantee you’ll fully wake up on the trip from the bed to the dresser; it’s worth trying.
Put Your Phone in Silent Mode
Again, this may be problematic for those who rely on their phone at night. However, it’s 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. 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 in order to respond.
Avoid Sleep Deprivation
We often engage in some odd behavior when we’re sleep-deprived. In fact, the instances of parasomnias are more frequent when someone hasn’t gotten adequate shuteye. Therefore, instead of using your phone into the wee hours of the morning and only putting it down when it drops out of your hand, and you pass out, try going to bed and waking at a reasonable time that allows you to get a full seven to nine hours of shuteye.
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 get them. 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?
Yes. Sleep texting is a 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 they say 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 physically get up to respond. While there’s no guarantee, getting up could wake you enough so that you’re fully alert if you choose to answer the message.
Can it be linked to parasomnia?
Yes, in fact, this disorder is a type of parasomnia. A parasomnia is any abnormal behavior that someone does during their bedtime. The person may be semi-conscious during the episode, but their brain is not fully alert. Examples of other parasomnias include sleepwalking, sleep eating, teeth grinding, terrors, driving, and sex, to name a few.
Have you ever sent a text message and immediately regretted it? Now that sleep texting disorder is gaining legitimacy as a real thing, you can blame your next misguided text on this condition. As long as the message didn’t go through at 10 a.m. (assuming you have a nine to five job), then you can probably get away with it!