Deirdre Budd’s Blog

Archive for February 2010

Reviewing recent sleep research, particularly relating to teenagers and college students, the following interesting studies  came to light.

First, a Swedish study looked at the effects of regular mobile phone use on otherwise healthy 14-20 year old students. Dr. Badre of Sahlgrens Academy, in Gothenburg,  reviewed the use of mobile phones in students without reported sleep problems. Using questionnaires and noting the level of mobile phone use Dr Badre found that addiction to mobile phone use is becoming common. “youngsters feel a pressure to be interconnected and reachable round the clock. There seems to be a connection between the intensive use of cell phones and health compromising behaviour such as smoking and the use of alcohol.”

The subjects formed two separate groups. One group made 5 or less calls or  text messages a day. The second group made 15 or more calls and/or texts a day. When compared, the group which made the most frequent use of mobile telephones, demonstrated increased restlessness with more careless lifestyles. They consumed more stimulating beverages, and experienced more difficulty in falling asleep, more disrupted sleep, and  were more susceptible to stress and fatigue.  Their behaviour became more like the behaviour demonstrated when ones’ biological clock is delayed.

Dr. Badre stressed “It is necessary to increase the awareness amongst youngsters of the negative effects of excessive mobile phone use on their sleep wake patterns, with serious health risks and cognitive problems.” Adolescents should get nine hours of sleep every night. Although in this study the sample size was small the results certainly give food for thought.

The second study was much larger, and conducted on students in North Texas.

People are either owls or larks. This recognised phenomenon describes those of us who do our best work in the morning (Larks) and those who perform better in late afternoon, or evening (Owls). In the University of  North Texas, a study of psychology students was undertaken by K.Clay. In this study 824 undergraduate students completed a health survey which included questions about sleep habits and daytime functioning.

According to the results, the students who achieved the best grades were the larks. D.J. Taylor PhD, Ms. Clay’s co author, who developed the concept for this study, stated that “these results suggest that it might be possible to improve academic performance by using chronotherapy to help students entrain their biological clocks (circadian rhythms) to become more morning types.”

 It is well recognised that puberty can affect circadian rhythm. Perhaps it is time to consider the lifestyle of our teens and the effects of our reliance on technology on sleep patterns too!