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Positive Parental and Peer Ties Linked to Better Teen Sleep

Update Date: Dec 05, 2013 11:41 AM EST

Teens who have good relationships with their parents and peers get better sleep. While changes in hormonal levels in teen years affect sleep patterns, new research reveals that social ties at home and at school may have a larger impact on teen sleep.

The latest study involved data from 1,000 adolescents who were tracked from age 12 to 15.  Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires about their lives, relationships with parents and friends, involvement in school and sleep habits. Researchers also monitored how quickly teens went through puberty.

During the study period, teen's sleep dropped from 9.2 hours per night at age 12 to 7.8 hours per night at age 15.

The findings revealed that social ties were significantly stronger predictors of teen sleep behaviors than their stages of puberty.

Researchers said the latest findings emphasize the point that "teens' lives, in their totality, matters... not just the phase of puberty," according to LiveScience.  

Researchers found that teens were more likely to get more sleep in their parents checked up on them. The study revealed that parental monitoring of adolescent behavior, especially by setting a bedtime, significantly determined healthy sleep habits.

"Research shows that parents who keep tabs on their kids are less likely to see them get into trouble or use drugs and alcohol," researcher David J. Maume, a sociology professor at the University of Cincinnati, said in a news release. "My findings suggest a similar dynamic with sleep. Parents who monitor their children's behavior are more likely to have kids that get adequate rest. Given that children generally get less sleep as they become teenagers, parents should be ever more vigilant at this stage."

Friends also influenced teen sleep, according to the study. Researchers found that teens whose friends tended to cared about grades and behave in pro-social ways experienced fewer sleep disruptions.

"These findings reinforce social science theory and research findings suggesting that health is facilitated by individuals becoming embedded in multiple networks of positive associations, with key actors in their lives," researchers wrote in the study.

Maume said the latest findings suggest that "it's necessary to look beyond biology when seeking to understand and treat adolescents' sleep problems." According to a news release.

"When adolescents have trouble sleeping, doctors often recommend prescription drugs to address the problem," Maume said. Examining social ties may lead more counseling or greater parental involvement in teens' lives. However, both of these are less invasive than commonly prescribed medical solutions, he concluded.

The findings are published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 

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