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Teens' Cell Talk at Night Can Be Tiring
Date:9/1/2007

Kids who gab after bedtime pay the price down the road, European researchers say

SATURDAY, Sept. 1 (HealthDay News) -- If your kids are falling asleep in their morning cereal, check their cell phones -- even a tiny bit of nighttime chatting might be robbing them of needed sleep.

A new study found that teens who reported using their cell phones after bedtime just once a month nearly doubled their odds of being very tired a year later. Those who gabbed away after lights out once a week were more than three times as likely to be tired.

The study only looked at students in Flanders, Belgium. But one U.S. pediatrician said the findings probably hold true for American kids, too.

"You have a population that's always tired to begin with," said Dr. Irwin Benuck, an attending physician at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Add nighttime cell-phone use to the mix, and the findings are "very predictable and not surprising," added Benuck, who's familiar with the study.

Study author Jan Van den Bulck, a researcher at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, surveyed 1,656 secondary school students; the average age in one group was 13.7 years and 16.9 years in the other.

Only 38 percent of the teens surveyed said they never used their cell phones after bedtime. Using the phone right after lights out increased the risk of being "very tired" a year later by 2.2 times; those who talked or text messaged between midnight and 3 a.m. raised their risk nearly fourfold.

Van den Bulck blamed cell phone use for tiredness in about one-third of all the children. "There is no safe dose and no safe time for using the mobile phone for text messaging or for calling after lights out," Van den Bulck wrote in the study.

In an interview, the author said parents may be in the dark about the nighttime activities of their kids. "It is a very typical phenomenon -- kids grow up with new technologies that
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