Sleep textual content messaging is changing into the brand new sleep discuss – and it might get you in hassle

Sleep specialists are seeing a growing number of people sending messages, emails, and even phone calls in deep sleep.

Important points:

  • Sleep SMS is a type of parasomnia, a category of disruptive sleep disorders
  • The content of texts, emails and calls can be gibberish or something “raw”
  • Experts say it can have an impact on both work and personal life

In most cases, people wake up with no memory of the messages they sent to any number of unintended and sometimes inconvenient recipients.

The phenomenon known as sleep SMS is expected to affect a large part of the population soon as smartphone use becomes so automatic that it penetrates our subconscious.

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Sleep Services Australia Medical Director Linda Schachter said people had been exhibiting semi-goal-oriented behaviors while sleeping for years, so it was no surprise when they started texting.

“It used to be sleepwalking, talking and eating – now people are so used to texting,” said Dr. Schachter.

“You are not really awake, but you are behaving that you would normally do while awake.”

Similar to the statements of a speaking sleeper, these texts and e-mails are mostly nonsensical or gibberish, often humorous and sometimes controversial.

But while a sleep speaker’s semi-conscious thoughts are limited to the ears of those in their bedroom, sleep texting has the potential to reach a far wider audience.

Somya woke up on the phone with her boyfriend

Mandurah law student Somya, who refused to use her last name, said she was shocked when she woke up to texts she couldn’t remember one night last month.

Sleep Textual Content Messaging Is Changing Into The Brand New Sleep Discuss - And It Might Get You In HassleSomya says she often falls asleep with her phone in hand. (ABC News: James Carmody)

“Most of them were maybe half a word or a few letters, it looked like I tried to say something and then just fell asleep,” she said.

Somya, 21, said she grew more concerned after dozing off in front of the TV one night only to wake up standing in another room in the middle of a phone call.

“I woke up talking to my boyfriend on the phone, but I can’t remember falling asleep so I was super disoriented,” she said.

“I’ve talked in my sleep before so he realized that after a while and laughed at me well when I woke up.

“He told me that I had called him and talked like a customer at work, including selling him a telephone contract.”

Somya said it made sense that she started texting.

“I’m pretty addicted to my cell phone. Most of the time I fall asleep with it in hand, sometimes I was typing something in the middle,” she said.

“It’s really like an extension of my hands. I could write with my eyes closed, almost as if it were anchored in my muscle memory. “

Time to take the phone out of the bedroom?

Sleep Foundation vice chairman David Hillman said that sleep messaging was a type of parasomnia that presented itself as people exhibiting automatic behaviors while they were asleep.

A man reaches for an alarm clock while he is still in bed. - Sleep Textual Content Messaging Is Changing Into The Brand New Sleep Discuss - And It Might Get You In HassleSleeping next to an old-fashioned alarm clock has never been so risky.Delivered: iStock)

These behaviors range from grinding teeth and talking to walking and eating, but in the most extreme cases, people even get behind the wheel and drive.

Dr. Hillman said he saw patients regularly wake up and find their kitchen a mess after preparing a meal overnight.

“People are able to do quite complex activities while they sleep, but have no memory or awareness of them afterwards,” he said.

Dr. Hillman said texting was such an everyday behavior for most people that it was no surprise that it turned out to be a parasomnia – especially when most people slept next to their bed with a smartphone.

He said removing phones from the bedroom was an easy solution, but not always an option.

“I remember from personal experience that I was on call every other night and got called at 2:00 a.m. and gave instructions on the occasional phone and then woke up and called back to check exactly what I said,” he said .

Hillman said it was not uncommon for people on call to answer the phone in bed and give directions without fully waking up – something that could be particularly dangerous in the medical field.

“A lot of people have their phones turned on by their bed at night and are prepared to deal with things like family emergencies or picking up children and the like,” he said.

Sleep SMS as risky as drunk SMS

Melbourne Sleep Disorder director David Cunnington said accidentally sending messages to the office had become more common as developments like fingerprint and facial recognition technology made it easier to unlock a phone while half asleep.

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He said the types and tone of text messages while sleeping might vary depending on how awake someone is in different areas of the .

“Most of the time it’s things that just don’t make sense, someone grabbed the phone and automatically pushed the buttons,” said Dr. Cunnington.

“However, there can be variations of sleepwalking and sleep talking that overlap a little with confusing arousal.

“This is where the more primitive parts of the involved in automatic functions can wake up, but the more complex parts of the brain involved in functions like social filtering are still asleep.”

Dr. Cunnington said writing sleep messages could have far-reaching implications in both work and personal life.

“Often times, the content of messages is a little cruder, more unfiltered, not softer. It can’t be dissimilar to the drunken text messages that many people suffer from,” he said.

“Sometimes people say things they might not want, sometimes it’s completely unimportant, but it could be misinterpreted and get them into trouble.”

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