Sleep study says teens, parents wake up at night to check phones; sleep doctor warns about health risks

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CHICAGO — Do you wake up in the middle of the night just to check your phone? Do your kids? A study out says more people, young and old, are depriving themselves of sleep just so they can hop on their devices. For kids and parents alike, the dangers associated with the behavior are real.

The study is by Common Sense Media and spells out just how many people will opt for grabbing their phones over hitting their sheets.

One quarter of parents surveyed do it, and about a third of children between the ages of 12 and 18.

Dr. Tanvi Mukundan, a pediatric sleep doctor at Lurie Children’s Hospital, said it’s more than just a bad habit.

“A lot of people are taking their phones to bed. It's not good because it's something easy to stay awake for because our sleepy brain loves that stimulation,” she said.

Mukundan said sleepy brains are immediately awakened by light, sound and images — so much so that kids and parents find it hard to set their phones down even in the  middle of the night.

A study by Common Sense Media surveyed 500 parents and 500 children between 12-18. Researchers found 12% of parents sleep with their phone in their bed, and 29% of kids do it too.

“Having your phone in bed with you can be very disruptive because of notifications because of the brightness of the light. And our brains get so sensitive to that light disruption when we are in our deeper sleep," Mukundan said.

Your average adult, the doctor says, should get between seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. For those getting six hours or less, it’s considered “very insufficient." The lack of sleep delays melatonin secretion which helps people sleep.

High school aged kids should get between eight to 10 hours a night. Elementary and middle school kids are best with nine to 12 hours of sleep. Anything less can lead to higher health risks well beyond daytime sleepiness which can range from cardiac issues, metabolic issues, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, and can also cause increased inflammation in the body. It can also lead to diabetes and certain forms of cancer.

So what should people do to break the bad digital disruption?

The doctor if the phone is right next to you, you've already lost the battle.

Experts say you should take the phone out of the kids' room overnight and adults should keep their phones accessible but out of reach from the bed.

The study zeros in on phones and overnight attachment to them, but the results are the same when using laptops, tablets and even turning on the TV too close to bedtime.

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