January 30, 2014 —

Every month, we’re keeping you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at how social ties can influence teen sleeping patterns.

Teens are infamously known to stay up late, get less sleep and always feel tired. Most medical research on the topic explores biological factors like puberty’s effect on melatonin, but rarely considers teen relationships. A new study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior reported that social factors appear to affect teens’ sleep patterns more than developmental factors.

Researchers examined how parental, peer and school ties influence sleep behaviors among 12 to 15 year olds. The findings reported that teens were more likely to get an adequate amount of sleep each school night if 1) their parents monitored their daily behavior, 2) they had friends that were positive and social and 3) they cared about their performance in school.

The results of the study show that adequate rest is associated with the benefits of a strong network of people. Because teens learn lifestyle habits from the people they are tied to, it is important for them to have close relationships with family and friends. Parents who keep tabs on their teens tend to enforce bed times and limit their computer and television use, which are associated with sleep issues. Teens that care about school and their relationships with others encourage their friends to develop similar healthy habits, like getting enough sleep on school nights.

As parents, we should help guide our teens to lead healthy, productive and fulfilling lives. It is important to remember to look beyond the biology of their changing bodies and understand these social factors that could be disrupting their sleeping patterns. David J. Maume, lead study author and sociology professor at the University of Cincinnati, recommends that parents try a number of ways to understand and treat their teens’ sleep problems. In a statement, Maume said parents should consider “counseling or greater parental involvement in teens’ lives, both of which are less invasive than commonly-prescribed medical solutions and, at least in the case of parental involvement, cheaper.”

Learn more about the study and its findings here.