Sleep texting is using your phone to send or reply to a message while asleep. Though it might sound improbable, it can happen.
In most cases, sleep texting is prompted. In other words, it’s more likely to happen when you receive an incoming message. A notification might alert you that you have a new message, and your brain responds in much the same way that it would when you’re awake.
Although it’s possible to compose a message while sleeping, its contents might not be comprehensible.
Sleep texting is most likely to affect people who sleep in close proximity to their phones with audible notifications.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes sleep texting.
We’re capable of a variety of behaviors during sleep. Sleepwalking and sleep talking are among the most common, but there are other reports of eating, driving, and even having sex while asleep. Sleep texting is likely not so different from other behaviors that occur during sleep.
These unwanted sleep behaviors, sensations, or activities are symptoms of a broad category of sleep disorders called parasomnias. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that approximately 10 percent of Americans experience parasomnias.
Different parasomnias are associated with different stages of the sleep cycle. For example, acting out dreams is associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and is part of a specific disorder known as REM sleep behavior disorder.
In contrast, sleepwalking occurs during abrupt awakenings from slow-wave sleep, a type of non-REM sleep. Someone who is sleepwalking is operating in an altered or lower state of consciousness.
When you sleepwalk, parts of your brain that control movements and coordination are turned on, while the parts of your brain that control higher functions, such as rationality and memory, are turned off.
Sleep texting might occur during a similar state of partial consciousness. However, there is currently no research exploring when it occurs in the sleep cycle, or which parts of the brain are active.
In a 2013 study on technology use and sleep, researchers found that 10 percent of participants reported waking up because of their cell phone at least a few nights per week.
Depending on when in the sleep cycle these intrusions occur, they might trigger a state of consciousness in which it’s possible to send a text message without remembering it in the morning.
A number of factors might contribute to sleep texting. These include:
Sleep texting might also have a genetic component, as people who have a family history of sleep disorders are at an increased risk of experiencing parasomnias.
Parasomnias can occur at any age, though they affect children more often. When they occur during adulthood, they may be triggered by an underlying condition.
Some underlying conditions that can contribute to parasomnias include:
- sleep breathing disorders, for instance obstructive sleep apnea
- use of medications, such as anti-psychotics or antidepressants
- substance use, including alcohol use
- health conditions (such as restless leg syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), whichdisrupt your sleep
There are a variety of different scenarios in which sleep texting can occur.
The most common is probably after receiving a notification. The phone rings or beeps to alert you to a new message. The notification might not even be for a text message. The sound prompts you to pick up the phone and compose a response, as you might during the day.
Another possible scenario when sleep texting might occur is during a dream in which you are using your phone or texting someone. Phone use in a dream could be prompted by a notification from your phone or be unprompted.
In other cases, texting during sleep might occur independent of a notification. Since texting has become an automatic behavior for a lot of people, it’s possible to do it without prompting in a semiconscious state.
Sleep texting isn’t usually a serious problem. Aside from being humorous or possibly awkward, it doesn’t represent a risk to your health and well-being.
You should speak to a doctor if you experience sleep texting along with other disruptive or potentially dangerous parasomnias. If you maintain a consistent sleep routine and still experience parasomnias, they could be a sign of an underlying health condition.
For most people who sleep text, there is a simple solution. When it’s time to go to bed, you can try one of the following:
- turn off your phone or put your phone in “night mode”
- turn off sounds and notifications
- leave your phone out of your bedroom
- avoid using your phone in the hour before bed
Even if sleep texting isn’t a problem, keeping your device in the bedroom can have an impact on the quality and quantity of your sleep.
The same 2013 study found that technology use in the hour before bed is extremely common in the United States. The use of interactive technological devices, such as cell phones, is more often associated with trouble falling asleep and reported “unrefreshing” rest.
The impact of electronic devices on sleep is more apparent among teens and young adults, who tend to spend more time on their cell phones.
A 2015 study from Norway found that both daytime and bedtime use of electronic devices among adolescents was correlated with sleep measures. Device use was associated with shorter sleep duration, longer time spent falling asleep, and sleep deficits.
It’s possible to text while you’re asleep. Much like other behaviors that occur during sleep, sleep texting occurs in a semiconscious state.
Sleep texting isn’t usually a serious problem. You can prevent it by turning off notifications, turning off your phone altogether, or simply keeping your phone out of your bedroom.