What has the largest influence on teenagers’ sleep habits? A study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviors explored this topic and found that social factors (eg, relationships with parents and peers) outperform developmental factors (eg, the timing of puberty and resultant drops in melatonin) in determining sleep patterns.
The study draws on the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, a longitudinal study of children’s physical, cognitive, and social development. The sample was 974 teenagers who reported on their own sleep habits at ages 12 and 15. They also reported on social ties (eg, parental support, peer relationships), academic demands, and daily schedules, and their mothers reported on family structure and children’s physical development.
Findings showed that as children age from Year 7 to age 15, sleep duration on a school night declines from more than nine to a little less than eight hours per night, and reports of disrupted sleep increase over the interval. Generally, stressful social ties (eg, when family composition changes because of divorce or remarriage) were shown to disrupt sleep. Teenagers had healthier sleep (longer duration and of higher quality) when social ties were a source of support, such as when they felt part of the schools they attended or they were surrounded by academically oriented and prosocial friends.
Source: Social Ties and Adolescent Sleep Disruption (2013), Journal of Health and Social Behaviors, 54(4).