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Better sleep could help teens deal with social situations

Researchers say quality sleep could be the ultimate coping mechanism

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Photo (c) Aja Koska - Getty Images
Recent studies have found that teens aren’t getting enough sleep, which can affect them in more ways than many consumers may realize. 

Now, researchers from Michigan State University found that when teens get quality sleep, they could be better equipped to deal with stressful social situations. This includes anything from arguments with friends to issues of race and discrimination. 

“Findings of this study have important implications,” said researcher Yijie Wang. “Understanding how sleep helps adolescents negotiate social challenges may consequently elucidate how promoting sleep may improve adolescent adjustment during high school and beyond.”  

Improving sleep quality

The researchers had over 250 ninth graders participate in the study, all of whom wore activity-monitoring watches that tracked their physical activity and sleep for the two-week study. 

The second component of the study was a nightly survey, which gave the participants the opportunity to reflect on their days. The survey asked them to report on how they dealt with stressful situations, how they felt emotionally, and any discrimination they experienced. 

The study revealed that participants were better able to handle stressful situations at school when they slept better at night. The students who got better sleep were not only seeking out support from their friends to help handle conflicts at school, but they were reporting better coping and problem-solving skills overall. 

When it came to issues of discrimination, the findings held up. The students who slept better at night responded better in these situations and reported stronger mental well-being. However, the researchers found that not getting enough sleep could lead to worse results. 

“These studies showed that, on days when adolescents experienced ethnic or racial discrimination, they slept less and also took longer to actually fall asleep,” said Wang. 

Promoting better sleeping habits

It can be difficult for parents to get their teens to follow a sleeping schedule, but Wang says doing so can be incredibly beneficial. 

These findings clearly outlined how impactful sleep can be for young people. Parents can be instrumental in their children’s social success by being stricter about bedtimes and having more positive attitudes around sleep. 

“The promotive effect of sleep is so consistent,” said Wang. “It reduces how much adolescents ruminate, it promotes their problem solving, and it also helps them to better seek support from their peers.” 

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