Up 2 L8: High School, College Students Losing Sleep Over Tech

VIDEO: ourth-generation insomniac, Patricia Morrisroe, looks to cure her disorder.
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For Gabby Gomez, a good night's sleep is a rare commodity.

The 19-year-old college student attends California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks full-time and also works full-time at a public relations firm.

"I work Monday, Wednesday and Friday and go to school on Tuesday and Thursday," said Gomez.

The full class load and full work load are grueling enough to make anyone tired, but Gomez doesn't think that's nearly enough.

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"While I'm at school, I also work. I work straight from my phone," she said. "I answer e-mails or take calls, and I run social media for my clients from my phone."

Indeed, thanks to the technology at her fingertips, her typical work day never seems to end.

"I start answering e-mails I may have missed around 7 a.m., I get into the office around 9 a.m., work until 5, and then I continue to e-mail back and forth after hours -- that could be up until 2 or 3 a.m."

Gomez admits that she is BlackBerry-obsessed. She takes calls or answers e-mails at all hours of the night, and does the same whenever she's out with friends. She said she aims for five hours of sleep a night, but usually doesn't get that much.

VIDEO: ourth-generation insomniac, Patricia Morrisroe, looks to cure her disorder.
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Experts say Gomez is hardly unique. A growing body of research suggests that more and more young people are becoming sleep-deprived because they can't put down their high-tech toys.

In recent years, studies have suggested that habitual Internet use and computer gaming can lead to lost sleep. A 2004 study in the journal Sleep revealed that adolescents with a TV set, gaming computer or Internet connection in their rooms spent measurably less time in bed. And some sleep researchers say that late-night use of gadgets with light-emitting screens can also have a detrimental impact on sleep.

What could make matters worse is that children and young adults require a lot more sleep than adults -- and ignoring this basic need in favor of texting or surfing the web can lead to serious problems.

"Insufficient sleep is associated with huge life factors, such as mood issues," said Dr. Helene Emsellem, director of The Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md. "They are also more likely to be overweight."

"It can lead to social isolation, a lack of social skills development and interfere with the ability to function in school or at work," said Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist in the department of psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City.

He added that young people's relationship with technology borders on addiction.

"Overuse of the Internet has an addictive quality, feeding into some aspects of compulsive or impulsive disorders when teens or college students are involved," he said.

Hilfer added that they may suffer from withdrawal if there's no access to a computer, and they also find themselves needing more in terms of software, upgrades and more time online.

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"All of this combines to create a scenario where kids are sneaking the computer or a phone into their beds and they're up until 3 or 4 in the morning," he said.

That's a scenario that prevents their bodies from meeting a basic need.

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