Whatsapp, Facebook or sending SMS messages during the night without lights on or in the dark from your bed may affect sleep and overall performance in school or college the next day, said a new study Rutgers University in New Jersey, US.
Texting for longer hours foregoing sleeping is the main cause for their poor academic performance, showed the study citing visual health and brain activity of the affected students, based on a survey of 1,537 students from three New Jersey highschools.
Compared to girls, boys had performed poorly after night-texting since girls texted with lights on and turned them off before sleep while boys often preferred to turn off lights and keep texting before sleeping, said researchers.
Lead author of the study Prof. Xue Ming of the Rutgers University said: “We need to be aware that teenagers are using electronic devices excessively and have a unique physiology.”
The dark night texting not only deprives adolescents their eight-and-a-half hour sleep but also affects their Rapid Eye Movement (REM), which lasts for few hours and helps in learning, memory consolidation and social adjustment. With reduced REM sleep, their learning capacity and memory declines considerably, said researchers.
Attributing the REM deficiency to the effect of “blue light” emitted from smartphones and tablets, which affects eyes more when texing in dark, researchers said short wavelength light delays melatonin release that stops sleepiness during the day time, thus inducing sleepiness the next day during school hours. The survey covered grades, sexes, texting duration and texting time whether before or after the lights are out.
Back in the good old days, the most complex message one could expect to receive via texting was 160 characters long on a particularly crazy day but now it has become simplistic and more like speaking person-to-person, said Jessie Hale, a researcher who has researched on texting at Brigham Young University, US.
“I thought it would be interesting to see how text messaging affects different elements of discourse,” she said. “People used to use texting to inform people or to ask a quick question, but now it’s become a way of having entire conversations,” she said.
Hale worked with Wendy Baker, assistant professor in the department of linguistics and English language, BYU, to collect nearly 1,500 texts from friends, co-workers and random participants as part of the project. The pair analyzed these texts by looking at what texters were willing to say and how they said it.
One reason for boys to excel girls in dark time texting is that they feel bolder during that time. “People are bolder while texting than they would be in person, and it doesn’t matter if they are male or female,” Baker said. “What matters is age: the younger you are, the more daring you are.”
However, texting is also drifting further away from other forms of communication because of its impersonal, impermanent nature, she said. “Texting is very transient. Texts will eventually disappear if they are not saved, so we feel safer giving out information that might seem sensitive if spoken.”