Exhausted teenagers are slumping at their school desks after a long night texting, gaming or obsessively monitoring Facebook.
Sleep Well clinician Alex Bartle says he is seeing an increasing number of teenagers and young adults who seem "addicted" to their electronic devices.
Using electronic media before bed could lead to disrupted sleep, he says, as the back-lighting on tablets and phones could suppress the production of melatonin, which was needed to sleep.
Their interactive nature could also stimulate the brain more than "passive" television.
Teenagers need up to nine hours' sleep each night to function well and recent research showed that trying to catch up with weekend sleep-ins is not a long-term solution, Dr Bartle says.
In Hawke's Bay, school nurse Maxine Hawea says severely tired teens are piling into school sick bays with headaches from exhaustion.
Hastings Boys' High School student Joe Walding-Karaitiana, 17, says he often checks Facebook on his phone while his mum thinks he is in bed asleep.
Another Hasting Boys' student Tobie Birchall, 17, also confessed to some late-night communication.
"You get a quick text and pass by Facebook."
Karauria Morrell, 17 says he once stayed up till 5am playing video game Modern Warfare 3 online. He used to visit the sick bay complaining of headaches but was feeling better after he started going to bed earlier.
He says NCEA is getting harder and he needs to focus on studying for his exams.
School headmaster Rob Sturch says looming assessments make it "crucial" that the boys focus.
"There's too much time spent on idle chat and social networking instead of putting your bum on a seat and doing some work."
With a teenage boy at home, Mr Sturch says he has started to notice boys messaging as late as midnight.
"It's not enough sleep for a growing teenager. They should be tucked up in their beds by 10pm at the latest."
Mr Sturch says attendance is the biggest aid to learning so when students are at school the teachers want them "on their toes".
Clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo says teenagers often check social networking more often because they don't want to feel left out.
The content of these online conversations could also be stopping teens from sleeping. If they were being bullied or trying to help a friend they would lie awake and worry.
"When you're alone in the dark that's when the ghosts come out," Ms Nimmo says.
Netsafe operations manager Lee Chisholm advises parents to set clear boundaries for electronic devices in the home.
That could include making children hand over their devices before bedtime or asking teens to pay for their phone use in order to limit use.
HOW TO GET YOUR TEEN TO SLEEP
1. Create firm boundaries: Electronic devices should be left in the lounge overnight.
2. Avoid brain stimulation, such as surfing the internet or playing games before bed.
3. Establish a routine and set bed time, such as having a shower and reading for 30 minutes before turning the light out.
4. Avoid a heavy meal or caffeinated drinks before bed.
5. Eat well and get plenty of fresh air and daily exercise.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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