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Sleep Texting: Understanding the Causes & How to Prevent It

Sleep texting, a relatively new phenomenon in the digital age, refers to the act of sending text messages while asleep or in a semi-conscious state during sleep. With the widespread use of smartphones and constant connectivity, many people may find themselves unconsciously engaging in texting behaviors without any recollection or awareness of their actions the next morning. Sleep texting can occur as a result of various factors, such as sleep disturbances, sleep-related disorders, stress, or sleep deprivation, leading individuals to interact with their phones without being fully awake. This emerging sleep-related behavior is raising concerns about privacy, as sleep texters may unknowingly share personal information or send incoherent messages to unintended recipients. So is sleep texting a fact or fiction? Read on to understand the reality and find out ways to safeguard your sleep.

Understanding Sleep Texting and Its Causes

Sleep texting, an intriguing offshoot of our modern digital era, involves individuals sending text messages during periods of sleep or while in a semi-conscious state. This behavior has burgeoned due to the pervasive use of smartphones and the omnipresent need for connectivity. Astonishingly, those who engage in sleep texting often wake up without any memory or cognizance of their nocturnal communications. (1)

Categorized as a form of parasomnia, sleep texting falls within a broader spectrum of sleep disorders defined by unwarranted behaviors, sensations, or actions during slumber. Notably, the National Sleep Foundation indicates that close to ten percent of Americans grapple with parasomnias. (2)  These disorders manifest during specific phases of the sleep cycle, such as the association of dream enactments with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, termed as REM sleep behavior disorder.

Interestingly, the genesis of sleep texting seems to be rooted in transient episodes of partial wakefulness during sleep. Yet, the precise timing of this behavior within the sleep cycle and the brain regions it activates remain under-researched. For instance, a 2013 study on the interplay between technology and sleep found that about ten percent of the respondents were roused by their mobile devices multiple times weekly. (3)

The timing of these disturbances could potentially usher a state of semi-consciousness, facilitating unplanned messaging. As we delve deeper into understanding parasomnias and their relation to modern-day habits, continuous research is imperative to unravel the precise dynamics and ramifications of sleep texting.

The causes of sleep texting can vary and may include:

  1. Sleep Disturbances: Sleep texting can occur during episodes of sleep disturbances, such as sleepwalking or confusional arousals, where individuals partially wake up during the night and engage in automatic behaviors like texting.
  2. Sleep-Related Disorders: Certain sleep disorders, such as sleep-related eating disorder or REM sleep behavior disorder, can also manifest as sleep texting due to the complex motor activities that occur during sleep.
  3. Stress and Anxiety: High levels of stress and anxiety can disrupt sleep and lead to sleep-related behaviors, including sleep texting.
  4. Sleep Deprivation: Lack of sufficient sleep or irregular sleep patterns can increase the likelihood of engaging in automatic behaviors during sleep, like sleep texting.
  5. Smartphone Use Before Bedtime: Excessive use of smartphones before bedtime can interfere with sleep quality and make individuals more prone to sleep disruptions, including sleep texting.
  6. Habit Formation: If a person frequently uses their phone before sleep or is accustomed to responding to messages promptly, this behavior can become ingrained, leading to automatic texting during sleep.

Sleep texting may also have a genetic component, as individuals with a family history of sleep disorders have been found to have an increased risk of experiencing parasomnias. (4)

While parasomnias, including sleep texting, can occur at any age, they are more common in children. In adulthood, they may be triggered by underlying conditions. (5) Some of these underlying conditions that can contribute to parasomnias include sleep breathing disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, the use of certain medications like anti-psychotics or antidepressants, substance use, including alcohol consumption, and health conditions like restless leg syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) that disrupt sleep. Identifying and addressing these underlying factors are essential in managing and reducing the occurrence of parasomnias, including sleep texting.

It is essential for individuals experiencing sleep texting or sleep disturbances to seek evaluation from a healthcare professional or sleep specialist to identify and address any underlying sleep disorders or contributing factors.

Scenarios of Sleep Texting

Sleep texting can manifest in various scenarios, with individuals engaging in text messaging while in a state of partial consciousness during sleep. Here are some common situations in which sleep texting might occur(6):

  1. Responding to Notifications: One of the most common scenarios is when the phone emits a notification sound, alerting the individual to a new message. Even if the notification is not specifically for a text message, the sound can trigger a reflexive response as if it were during waking hours, leading the person to pick up the phone and compose a reply.
  2. Dream-Induced Texting: Sleep texting can be prompted by dreams involving phone use or texting someone. These dreams might be influenced by actual notifications received before sleep or could be spontaneous dream events.
  3. Unprompted Automatic Behavior: In some cases, sleep texting may occur independently of any notification. With texting having become an automatic behavior for many individuals, they may engage in this activity while in a semi-conscious state, without any external prompting.

These scenarios highlight the potential challenges posed by sleep texting, as individuals might inadvertently send messages without any memory of doing so upon waking.

How to Prevent Sleep Texting?

Preventing sleep texting involves adopting certain strategies and creating a conducive sleep environment to minimize the risk of engaging in automatic phone activities during sleep. Here are some helpful tips to prevent sleep texting:

  1. Create a Phone-Free Bedtime Routine: Establish a bedtime routine that does not involve using your phone. Avoid using your phone for at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime to give your mind a chance to unwind and prepare for sleep. (7)
  2. Keep the Phone Out of Reach: Place your phone away from your bed or even in another room while sleeping. This makes it less convenient to reach for the phone if you wake up during the night.
  3. Disable Notifications: Silence or disable unnecessary notifications, especially those with sounds or vibrations that might prompt you to check your phone at night.
  4. Use Night Mode or Do Not Disturb: Activate the night mode or do not disturb settings on your phone to minimize disturbances during your sleep.
  5. Set a Sleep Schedule and Stick to it: Stick to a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your body’s internal clock. Having a regular sleep routine can reduce the likelihood of waking up during the night and reaching for your phone.
  6. Practice Relaxation Techniques: Engage in relaxation techniques before bedtime, such as deep breathing, meditation, or reading, to calm your mind and prepare for sleep.
  7. Limit your Overall Screen Time: Reduce overall screen time during the day, as excessive screen use can negatively impact sleep quality and increase the likelihood of sleep disturbances. (8)
  8. Seek Treatment for Underlying Conditions: If you have sleep-related disorders or other underlying conditions contributing to sleep disturbances, seek professional evaluation and treatment to improve your sleep quality.
  9. Consider a Traditional Alarm Clock: Use a traditional alarm clock instead of relying on your phone’s alarm to wake up in the morning. This way, you won’t need to keep your phone near your bed.
  10. Talk to Your Doctor: If sleep texting or other parasomnias persist despite implementing preventive measures, consider discussing the issue with a healthcare professional or a sleep specialist to explore further interventions.


Sleep texting is a modern sleep-related behavior that poses unique challenges in today’s digitally connected world. As individuals become more reliant on smartphones and constant connectivity, the phenomenon of sleep texting has gained attention. To prevent sleep texting and its potential consequences, it is essential to adopt preventive measures such as creating a phone-free bedtime routine, keeping the phone out of reach during sleep, disabling notifications, and setting a consistent sleep schedule. Practicing relaxation techniques and seeking treatment for underlying sleep disorders can also contribute to better sleep hygiene.


  1. Horowitz, S., 2011. MF-064 SLEEP TEXTING: A NEW VARIATION ON AN OLD THEME. Sleep Medicine, (12), p.S39.
  2. Parasomnias: Types, symptoms, & causes (2023) Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/parasomnias (Accessed: 27 July 2023).
  3. Gradisar, M., Wolfson, A.R., Harvey, A.G., Hale, L., Rosenberg, R. and Czeisler, C.A., 2013. The sleep and technology use of Americans: findings from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Sleep in America poll. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 9(12), pp.1291-1299.
  4. Pace-Schott, E.F. and Hobson, J.A., 2002. The neurobiology of sleep: genetics, cellular physiology and subcortical networks. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 3(8), pp.591-605.
  5. Fleetham, J.A. and Fleming, J.A., 2014. Parasomnias. Cmaj, 186(8), pp.E273-E280.
  6. Gilpin, R. (2023) Sleep texting disorder – what are the causes of this disorder?, Sleep Advisor. Available at: https://www.sleepadvisor.org/sleep-texting/ (Accessed: 27 July 2023).
  7. Hysing, M., Pallesen, S., Stormark, K.M., Jakobsen, R., Lundervold, A.J. and Sivertsen, B., 2015. Sleep and use of electronic devices in adolescence: results from a large population-based study. BMJ open, 5(1), p.e006748.
  8. Gradisar, M., Wolfson, A.R., Harvey, A.G., Hale, L., Rosenberg, R. and Czeisler, C.A., 2013. The sleep and technology use of Americans: findings from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Sleep in America poll. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 9(12), pp.1291-1299.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 19, 2023

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