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Teens Who Feel Supported At Home And School Sleep Better

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Teens Who Feel Supported At Home And School Sleep Better

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Teens Who Feel Supported At Home And School Sleep Better

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We heard recently on this program about how getting enough sleep is a problem for today's teenagers. A new study suggests that a teen's relationship with parents, friends and teachers may have a lot to do with why they don't get a good night's sleep.

NPR's Patti Neighmond reports on the research from the University of Cincinnati.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: David Maume is a sociologist and sleep researcher. He analyzed federal health data, which surveyed 974 teenagers when they were 12, and then again when they were 15. He found that family dynamics have a lot to do with how well kids sleep.

DAVID MAUME: Teens that had very warm relations with their parents, felt like they could talk to them, felt like their parents were supportive of them, they tended to sleep better. Whereas families that were going through distressing times - say, going through a divorce or a remarriage - that tended to disrupt teens' sleep.

NEIGHMOND: And so did problems at school.

MAUME: Feeling safe at school, having good relations with teachers, those things tended to promote better sleep.

NEIGHMOND: As did good relationships with friends. Kids whose friends shared similar academic goals, took part in sports or other positive social activities were also more likely to get a good night's sleep. You could say it adds up to something that makes lots of sense: a general feeling of well-being helps you sleep.

MAUME: If we're happy and contented, we're much more likely to sleep better than if we're distressed and anxious and worried.

NEIGHMOND: Now, of course, teens are incredibly drawn to their computers and social networking. And Maume found that when parents were strict not only about bedtime, but also about limiting technology, kids slept better.

MAUME: It's a finding that seems obvious, but perhaps we need reminding of it, that parents really do matter when it comes to health habits of their teenagers.

NEIGHMOND: The federal sleep data shows that between the ages of 12 and 15, kids lose, on average, about an hour and a half of sleep a night, getting less than eight hours.

Sleep experts recommend nine to 10 hours a night, a goal that Stacy Simera, mother of 14-year-old Graig, is trying very hard to meet.

STACY SIMERA: As a mom, my role is to try to set the right environment for my son. And so he does not have caffeine. He does not have a TV in his bedroom. There's no cell phone or iPad up in his room when he's supposed to be asleep.

NEIGHMOND: But despite all of this, it pretty much never happens.

SIMERA: We send him to bed at 9 o'clock. And he's obedient. He goes. But I hear him tossing and turning. I hear him get up and go to bathroom. I hear him get up and get a drink of water.

NEIGHMOND: Simera says Graig typically doesn't get to sleep till after 11. That's likely due to another huge factor at play here: puberty.

Dr. Shalini Paruthi heads the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at St. Louis University.

SHALINI PARUTHI: We can't lose sight of the fact that puberty changes are very important to adolescent sleep.

NEIGHMOND: During puberty, kids' internal body clock - this cues the body when it's tired - changes.

PARUTHI: So, instead of getting sleepy at 8:30 P.M., now they're getting sleepy at 9:30 P.M. But for some teenagers, it shifts much further. And those are the kids who sometimes are not sleepy till midnight, or until two or three in the morning, and then have to wake up early for school.

NEIGHMOND: Clearly, these kids aren't getting the ideal nine to 10 hours a night. And that puts them at risk for all the consequences of sleep deprivation, including poor academic performance, colds, flu, depression and, among kids old enough to drive, accidents on the road.

Patti Neighmond, NPR News.

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