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  • Posted May 1, 2024

Popular Teens (Especially Girls) May Get Less Sleep

Popular teens pay a price for being so well-liked by their peers, a new study shows.

The popular crowd are less likely to get the 8 to 10 hours of sleep recommended for teenagers each night, researchers found.

In fact, the more popular a teen is, the less time they spend snoozing, results show.

The most popular teens tend to sleep up to 27 minutes less each night than their peers, researchers reported May 1 in the journal Frontiers in Sleep.

That might not seem like a lot, but among teens an extra half-hour of sleep can make a world of difference, said lead researcher Serena Bauducco, a sleep researcher at Orebro University in Sweden.

“Teenagers are arguably the most sleep-deprived population throughout the lifespan,” Bauducco said in a journal news release. “Previous studies show that 30 minutes of extra sleep can lead to improved mental health and better school performance.”

For the study, researchers asked more than 1,300 Swedish teenagers ages 14 to 18  to nominate up to three friends. Those receiving the most nominations were defined as most popular.

The research team then quizzed all the teens on their sleeping habits.

Teenagers overall find it hard to fall asleep earlier in the evening, researchers noted.

The hormone that regulates sleep, melatonin, tends to kick in later at night for teens, researchers said in background notes. On top of that, sleep needs compete with heavier school demands, more active relationships with friends, and more independence from parents.

The results “show that popular teenagers reported shorter sleep duration,” Bauducco said.

Popular girls -- but not popular boys -- also reported more insomnia symptoms, results show. They had a harder time falling or staying asleep, or waking too early, than popular boys.

This might be explained by the different ways boys and girls behave in friendships, researchers said.

“Girls express more care and concern with their friends and engage in helping behaviors more than boys,” Bauducco said. “This might mean they carry these concerns when it's time to fall asleep.”

Smartphones might be a natural suspect for lack of sleep among the popular, but Bauducco doubts it.

“We also see that popularity has been associated with worse sleep both before and after the development of handheld communication technology,” she said.

Instead, researchers think that a growing social circle could mean more time and emotion dedicated to friends, and less time left for sleep.

Many teenagers try to catch up on sleep during the weekends, but Bauducco said that strategy can backfire.

“Suppose a teen sleeps in on Sunday until 1pm. Falling asleep that night to be ready for school the next day will be a struggle, because they won't feel tired,” Bauducco said. “Delaying wake-times too much can contribute to maintaining the problem of sleep debt racked up during the week.”

More information

The Sleep Foundation has more about sleep and teenagers.

SOURCE: Frontiers, news release, May 1, 2024

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