North Texas Daily

Experts explain sleep texting phenomenon

Experts explain sleep texting phenomenon

Experts explain sleep texting phenomenon
October 03
08:21 2013

Mollie Jamison / Staff Writer

It’s common to wake up in the morning and not remember a dream, but it can be more frightening to wake up to text messages you don’t remember sending.

UNT sleep experts offer explanations behind the science of the middle-of-the-night phenomenon and offer advice on how to prevent it.

Brandy Roane, assistant professor at the UNT Health Science Center, said throughout the night people transition through different stages of sleep including an arousal stage. She said during this stage the person is neither awake nor asleep.

“It’s where you’ll typically roll over, fluff your pillow and go right back to sleep,” said Roane, a certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist. “Most people don’t remember that ever occurring. The alert from a text can very easily pop you into an arousal state or take you from arousal to a semi-awake state where you then text and respond.”

She said people do not remember these occurrences because they happen for such a short period of time and that they might not have awakened beyond reading a text and responding to a text.

Rehabilitation studies senior Megan Clayton said she doesn’t find it strange that she sleep texts because she has been sleepwalking since she was young. She said most kids grow out of it, but her condition worsened.

“I do at least something off the wall in my sleep about six to seven nights a week,” Clayton said.

She said she remembers a time in high school when she sent a text to a friend in her sleep that read:

Roane said the best way to prevent sleep texting is to get more sleep.

“Sleep texting and other types of events that occur like that are often compounded by situations of sleep restriction,” Roane said.

Kevin Sethi, a graduate research assistant in the UNT Insomnia Research Lab, said people can improve overall sleep quality by removing distractions from the bedroom that remind them of stresses they encounter during the day.

“Texting, for some people, is going to be a source of distraction and maybe even a stressor,” Sethi said. “If you’ve got an angry editor texting you or a boss or a boyfriend or girlfriend who’s upset with you and you’re arguing and receiving texts throughout the night, you’re having that phone in your room vibrating and it’s going to be a stressor and it’s going to wake you up.”

Sethi said there is published research that links texting to insomnia but that texting doesn’t necessarily cause insomnia – it may just relate to a person’s overall stress.

Roane said sleep texting most often occurs in stage one of a person’s sleep cycle, a period in which a person is neither awake nor asleep, but Sethi said people are awake. They are just groggy and do not recall what took place during the night.

“When people awake in the middle of the night they often times don’t remember being awake,” Sethi said. “Waking can be very brief. Research has shown that people don’t remember those awakenings. In all likelihood sleep texting is a misnomer because people are actually awake, they’re just very drowsy, and it’s normal to not remember a period of time directly before you fall asleep.”

Studies of human sleep demonstrate that sleep progresses through a series of five stages. Info courtesy of Graphic by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor

Woman sends a text message in her sleep. Feature photo courtesy of

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