'Sleep texting' embarrassing for sufferers

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - Sixteen-year-old Libby Hanley of Alexandria is giving new meaning to the term, “pillow talk.”

“I would wake up and I would have texts from friends and they would be like 'What? Huh? What are you saying?'" she explained.

“I don't know how this is happening,” Hanley admitted while eyeing her cell-phone. “I would rather not do it, obviously.”

Hanley’s middle-of-the-night notes usually consist of things she was thinking about before bed, but not necessarily wanting to share with others. Other times, they're just gibberish.

“I do have my phone on lock, but it's almost second nature now because I use it so much,” she said of her surprising ability to text while asleep.

American University senior Joni Agronin suffers from the same sleep texting phenomenon. It started when she started college.

“It is weird to wake up in the morning and see it and be like, "I don't remember sending that," she said.

Agronin admits that as a busy student, she’s plugged into technology around-the-clock. She wakes up from sleeping and regularly finds her phone buried in her pillows.

Doctor Vivek Jain studies abnormal sleep behaviors like Agronin’s. He’s the medical director at the GW Center for Sleep Disorders and says sleep texting is a type of parasomnia -- similar to sleep walking, sleep eating and night terrors.

“Somewhere, your conscience is aware of your surroundings and you reach out for things that are nearby to you,” he said.

Dr. Jain further explains how the line between wakefulness and sleep is blurred for those who sleep text. Something is driving part of the brain to wake up, but not become fully awake.

“Even in normal circumstances, everybody goes through periods in the middle of the night that we wake up,” Jain explained. “We are transiently aware of what's happening in the environment and we go right back to sleep.”

Quincy Taylor’s first sleep text was a confession of sorts.

“It was really embarrassing actually,” he said. “It was crazy."

The T.C. Williams High School senior texted a girl he liked.

“I’m definitely taking steps to make sure I can stop doing this,” Taylor admitted.

But in a society where staying connected is key, unlocking a cure may be easier said than done.

“Without my phone, I’m lost,” said Taylor. “Definitely addicted.”

And many others are addicted right along with him. A Pew Internet & American life Research study found 44 percent of all cell-phone users admit snuggling up in bed with their cell.

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