Texting your way to an F

The science behind the "blue light" from the smarphones

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A new study is the first of its kind to link nighttime instant messaging habits of teenagers to sleep health and school performance. Media use among children of all ages is increasing exponentially; studies have found that children aged from eight to 18 use electronic devices for long hours on a daily basis.

Can't stop texting? If you're a teenager, it may be to blame for falling grades and increased yawning in school, according to a new Rutgers study.

"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."

"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."

To conduct her study, Ming distributed surveys to three New Jersey high schools - a suburban and an urban public school and a private school - and evaluated the 1,537 responses contrasting grades, sexes, messaging duration and whether the texting occurred before or after lights out.

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," the researched adds. "If a person keeps getting text messages with alerts and light emission, that also can disrupt his/her circadian rhythm. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) 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."

"Sleep is not a luxury; it's a biological necessity. Adolescents are not receiving the optimal amount of sleep; they should be getting at least eight and a half hours a night," says Ming.

A version of this article was originally published on January 26, 2016 on www.sciencedaily.com. Link: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160126162227.htm

 

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