Smartphones: Something is stealing sleep from teenagers, but the remedy is surprisingly simple

Smartphones: Something is stealing sleep from teenagers, but the remedy is surprisingly simple

The mobile phones with connection to the network are the reason why young people rest less time.

In the analysis of two large surveys recently published, the other co-authors and I discovered that, between 2012 and 2015, the number of adolescents who declared that they slept less than seven hours a day had increased by no less than 22%. Sleep specialists agree that adolescents need at least nine hours of night sleep. However, in 2015, 43% of young people answered that most nights they slept less than seven hours, which means that almost half of American teens suffer from a significant lack of sleep.

What could have elevated the lack of sleep in this age group to those unprecedented levels? Some factors can be easily ruled out. For example, we saw that the time that adolescents spent working, doing homework and participating in extracurricular activities had remained stable throughout those years.

However, between 2012 and 2015 there had been a significant change in their lives: more boys and girls had their own mobile phone with an Internet connection.

It starts serving as an alarm clock ...
The current teenagers - whom I call the "Generation" - are the first generation to live all that stage of their life in the company of a mobile phone.

In our analysis, we found that the probability that those who spent more time connected to the Internet or social networks slept less was greater. The time spent watching television had a much weaker relationship with the reduction of sleep hours, and those who spent more time face to face with their friends or practicing sports or exercise, slept more.

In contrast, of its various activities, the time of connection to the Network had increased in the decade of 2010 and also related to the reduction of sleep hours, which made it the most likely cause of lack of sleep. The boys and girls of 17 and 18 years - who spent more time connected to the Internet than younger teens - were also those who slept less. In 2015, the majority - 51% - slept less than seven hours almost every night.

The relationship between internet connection time and lack of sleep was considerable. Spending five hours or more a day on the Net (compared to one hour) increased the risk of sleeping a little more than 50%. Spending three hours a day (also compared to one hour), increased the risk by almost 20%.

The smartphones - a device which, in late 2012, had most Americans - allow immediate mobile access to the Internet. In an analysis like this, it is difficult to show what the cause is and what the effect is, but it seems much more likely that the increase in the use of this class of mobile phones by teenagers between 2012 and 2015 would result in a lack of sleep. upside down.

Why do mobile phones with a network connection cause teenagers to sleep less? Unlike other electronic devices, such as televisions and laptops, smartphones (and tablets) are easy to carry into the bedroom and to hold in your hand while you are in bed.

Sleep specialists agree that adolescents need at least nine hours of night sleep. However, in 2015, 43% of young people answered that most nights they slept less than seven hours

Most of the students I interviewed for my iGen book told me that, in part, they left their mobile phones in their sleep because they used it as an alarm clock.

Many also told me that, at night, the last thing they looked at before sleeping was the cell phone. There is the problem, since answering messages and going up and down social networks is mentally and emotionally stimulating, which produces sleep disturbances. Others told me that, when they woke up in the middle of the night, they reached for their cell phones, often out of habit.

There is also a physiological response. The blue light emitted by mobiles and tablets mimics daylight, which inhibits the brain's production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep and stay in that state.

And that if the young people even try to sleep.

A 2014 study showed that 80% of teens acknowledged that they used their cell phones while they were supposed to be sleeping, a practice sometimes called "vampirism." Some claimed that they stayed awake most of the night while their parents thought they were sleeping.

Some simple limits
Lack of sleep can have serious consequences for teenagers.

Those who do not get enough sleep perform less at school and are at higher risk of obesity. Lack of sleep is also related to mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, among adolescents and adults.

When I was conducting the research for my book, I discovered that teenagers of the generation with a mobile Internet connection were more likely to be depressed and anxious than those of previous generations. If smartphones are the cause of teenagers sleeping less and less sleep causes depression, may lack sleep explain why depression among adolescents increased sharply after 2012, just when the "smartphones" became widespread and The lack of sleep began to increase among this age group.

What can be done? That the institutes start classes later has very positive effects on the students' sleep, but it is not something that parents and teenagers can control.

On the other hand, limiting the use of the mobile before going to bed is a strategy that can be implemented immediately (ideally, it should be done by the whole family, including adults). A rule that says "no cell phones in the bedroom after going to bed" can give good results. If your family uses your mobile as an alarm clock, buy cheap alarm clocks; install an application on mobile phones that turns them off at certain times or leave cell phones and tablets in another room at night; invite to read a book, take a bath or write a diary before going to bed.

Your teenagers will probably sleep more, and maybe they will be better and happier.
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