The Price of Popularity: How Social Status Affects Teenage Sleep

Researchers from Sweden and Australia have found that popularity among peers can negatively impact the sleep of teenagers aged 14 to 18. The findings, published in Frontiers in Sleep, shed light on the often-overlooked role of social context in adolescent sleep patterns.

Popularity Linked to Shorter Sleep Duration and Insomnia Symptoms

The study, which included more than 1,300 Swedish teenagers, revealed that popular teenagers reported shorter sleep duration compared to their less popular peers. The most popular teenagers slept up to 27 minutes less than others. Interestingly, popular girls – but not boys – reported more insomnia symptoms, such as difficulties falling or staying asleep, or waking up too early.

“Here we show that popular teenagers reported shorter sleep duration. In particular, popular girls – but not boys – reported more insomnia symptoms,” said Dr Serena Bauducco, a sleep researcher at Örebro University and first author of the article.

Smartphones May Not Be the Culprit

The researchers also found that the link between popularity and worse sleep existed both before and after the development of handheld communication technology. This suggests that smartphones may not be the primary cause of popular teenagers sleeping less; instead, other mechanisms could be at play.

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

The researchers speculate that more friends may mean more time dedicated to them, resulting in less time for sleep. Additionally, more emotional investment in friendships could lead to sleeping difficulties. However, these explanations need to be investigated further.

Teenagers are arguably the most sleep-deprived population, and even an extra 30 minutes of sleep can lead to improved mental health and better school performance. With schools starting early, many teenagers try to catch up on sleep on weekends – a strategy that can backfire and contribute to maintaining the problem of sleep debt.

The researchers believe that discussing social norms about sleep and expectations of peers around bedtime are missing components of existing sleep interventions for adolescents. Further research is needed to examine the mutual relationship between social connectedness and sleep and to understand the discovered sex differences.

Keyword/Phrase: Teenage Sleep and Popularity


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