children's health

Is your teen getting enough sleep? Research has found that sleep can help teens deal with social stress and problem-solving more effectively

According to a new Michigan State University study, a good night’s sleep does more than help teens stay awake in class – it can help them navigate challenging social situations.

The study found that adequate sleep allowed students to cope with discrimination and challenges associated with ethnic or racial bias. It also helps them problem-solve more effectively and seek peer support when faced with hardship.

“Findings of this study have important implications,” says Yijie Wang, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at MSU. “Understanding how sleep helps adolescents negotiate social challenges may consequently elucidate how promoting sleep may improve adolescent adjustment during high school and beyond.”

High school students are at risk for insufficient sleep due to early school times, busy schedules and increased social stressors. The transition to high school also introduces more diversity to their social environment and relationships.

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Children’s lack of sleep affects their mental health

Tracking teen sleep

For the study, ninth-graders wore an actigraphy watch, which tracked physical activities in one-minute intervals and determined their sleep-wake state, every day for two weeks.

The students were asked to complete a survey each day before bed, reporting their daytime experiences such as ethnic or racial discrimination, how they responded to stress, and their psychological well-being.

Wang and co-author Tiffany Yip of Fordham University wanted to pinpoint the effect sleep has on coping with discrimination. They found that if a teen has a good night’s sleep, they are able to cope with harsh experiences – like discrimination – better.

How to help your teens sleep better

Beyond sleeping for the recommended eight hours, the quality of their sleep is just as important.

Parents can help teens sleep better by ensuring they have a regular bedtime, limiting media use, and providing a quiet, calm sleep environment.

While encouraging good sleep habits in adolescents can be a struggle, Wang says that the benefits of a routine help them cope with the challenges of life in high school and beyond.

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

5 Ways to get to sleep faster

Source: Michigan State University via



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