"We need to be aware that teenagers are using electronic devices excessively and have a unique physiology," says study author Xue Ming, professor of neuroscience and neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. "They tend to go to sleep late and get up late. When we go against that natural rhythm, students become less efficient."
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that media use among children of all ages is increasing exponentially; studies have found that children ages 8 to 18 use electronic devices approximately seven-and-a-half hours daily.
Ming's research is part of a small but growing body of evidence on the negative effects of electronics on sleep and school performance. But few studies, Ming says, have focused specifically on instant messaging.
"During the last few years I have noticed an increased use of smartphones by my patients with sleep problems," Ming says. "I wanted to isolate how messaging alone - especially after the lights are out - contributes to sleep-related problems and academic performance."
To conduct her study, Ming distributed surveys to three New Jersey high schools - a suburban and an urban public school and a private school - and evaluated the 1,537 responses contrasting grades, sexes, messaging duration and whether the texting occurred before or after lights out.
She found that students who turned off their devices or who messaged for less than 30 minutes after lights out performed significantly better in school than those who messaged for more than 30 minutes after lights out.