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How Sleep Helps Teens Deal With Social Stress

A new Michigan State University study found that a good night’s sleep does adolescents good — beyond helping them stay awake in class. Adequate sleep can help teens navigate challenging social situations.

The study, which focused on ninth grade students, 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 hardships.

“Findings of this study have important implications,” said 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.”

Published in Child Development, this is the first study to identify the timing in which sleep helps with adolescents cope with stress.

Compared to adults and children, high school students are particularly 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.

Via this study, 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 of sleep, they are able to cope with harsh experiences — like discrimination — better.

Participants in the study 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 also 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.

A surprising finding in the study was that peers, not parents, were the immediate support that help adolescents cope with discrimination.

While encouraging good sleep habits in adolescents can be a struggle, said Wang 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,” Wang said. “It reduces how much adolescents ruminate, it promotes their problem solving and it also helps them to better seek support from their peers.”

Excerpted from “How sleep helps teens deal with social stress” in Science Daily. Read the full article. The research was first published online Oct. 28, 2019 in the journal Child Development, and will appear in the forthcoming Sept.-Oct. 2020 print edition.

Source: Science Daily | How sleep helps teens deal with social stress, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200225143511.htm | Copyright 2020 ScienceDaily

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