Sleep More, Stress Less-Helping Teens Cope with Social Stress

We all know the importance of a good night sleep for our ability to concentrate, stay on task, and regulate our emotions-but new research from Michigan State University also shows that sleeping more can help students cope with stressful social situations.

Sleep Matters

From MSU Today online:

Via this study, Wang and co-author Tiffany Yip of Fordham University wanted to pinpoint the effect sleep has on coping with discrimination. They found that if a teen has a good night of sleep, they are able to cope with harsh experiences – like discrimination – better.

“This study did not treat sleep as a consequence of discrimination,” Wang said. “However, our team did identify the influence of discrimination on same-day sleep in other studies. These studies showed that, on days when adolescents experienced ethnic or racial discrimination, they slept less and also took longer to actually fall asleep.”

The research involved students wore an actigraphy watch which tracked activity at one minute intervals for two weeks and respond to surveys daily which explored their stress and examples of ethnic discrimination.

One interesting result of the study was that teens relied on their peers rather than parents for immediate social support, however the research identified the importance of parents in helping to provide the stability necessary for a consistent sleep routine to help their children.

“The promotive effect of sleep is so consistent,” said Wang. “It reduces how much adolescents ruminate, it promotes their problem solving and it also helps them to better seek support from their peers.”

from MSU Today online

Simple ways to improve sleep for your children involve keeping electronics out of the bedroom, insisting on a regular sleep schedule-even on breaks and weekends, and reducing exposure to electronics at least one hour before bedtime.

While this inevitably can lead to surly responses while enforcing these measures, the benefit on their performance and ability to deal with the chronic challenges of discrimination.

Perhaps a future study can delve into how to minimize the frequency of this discrimination and if there might be ways to mitigate these episodes.

For more information, please read the article by Caroline Brooks and the original research by professor Wang :

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What was the main result from this research?
  2. What was an unexpected result?
  3. What is an “actigraphy watch?”
  4. Why do you think teens who experience discrimination receive more support from their peers than their parents?
  5. How would you study the frequency of ethnic discrimination among teens?

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