By Briana Vannozzi
The recording says it all. High school students weren’t even able to make it through a sleep study session without resisting the urge to respond to that late night text. The effect of smartphones on teenagers’ sleep is the focus of new research by JFK Medical Center.
“It comprised 3,000 students, it’s the largest in the U.S. of its type and it was very revealing,” Dr. Peter Polos said.
The one-year study in Edison school district showed that over 60 percent of students are not getting enough sleep because of late night texting or phone use, and 20 to 25 percent are awakened from their sleep responding to texts.
“We’re talking about a chronically sleep deprived adolescent and, in my opinion, adult population,” Polos said.
Polos is a sleep disorder specialist and lead the research. He says more than 70 percent of the participants reported getting less than the recommended eight hours of sleep a night, usually just five to six.
“Quality and quantity of sleep are important for brain development, for organizing thoughts of the day, helping with memory consolidation,” he said. “We know that normal sleep is critical for development, physiological development,”
“It’s just so tempting and it takes so much self control to know when to shut that off,” junior Kyle Gordy said.
But that’s exactly what teenagers should be doing, according to Polos. The sleep deprivation is causing problems with brain development and academic performance for adolescents in their prime for growth.
“Previously I used to spend ridiculous amounts of time on my phone and it would interfere with my sleep, so I have to take specific steps to be able to say, ‘no I need my sleep,'” junior Tilak Bhatnager said.
“I feel like using my phone is so distracting and if I’m responding to a text then I’m thinking about that text and I’m waiting for the other person to respond,” junior Anjali D’Amiano said. “Then before you know it I lost like an hour of sleep, so it’s really important for me to just keep it on silent.”
Polos says there’s a real effect from that. Your brain needs time to unwind and disconnect before bed. Not to mention delayed sleep onset caused by staring at screens with blue light, or any light waves, interrupts the release of melatonin.
“It really becomes incumbent upon the parent to say, ‘ok there is a set off time and set on time for the phones,'” Polos said.
We don’t yet know about the longterm effects of this all-night tech use, but doctors are concerned about changes in brain development and performance. They say we need to curb this now in the teenage years because those habits tend to trickle over as an adult.