According to a new study by the Journal of Adolescent Health, to be able to understand a teenager's sleeping habits the best place to start is to look at their parents. When their parents go to bed, how long they sleep and when they wake up may be shaping their children's sleep habits.
Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, accidents, substance abuse and other health problems during high school, researchers said and that efforts to improve teen sleep should consider the sleep routines of parents and possibly other family members.
The study, at the University of California in Los Angeles, involved 336 pairs of teens and parents, aged on average 15 and 42 years old, respectively. Over a two-year period, teens and parents documented their sleep habits and daily activities nightly for two weeks in each of the years whilst the parent-teen relationships were also assessed.
On average, teens slept 8.6 hours on non-school nights and about 30 minutes less on school nights. Parents went to bed and woke up earlier than teens and slept about 17 minutes less on school nights. Although parents and teens didn't always go to bed at the same time, the similarity in their sleep habits was significant: if parents stayed up later or went to bed earlier, teens also stayed up later or went to bed earlier. Interestingly, the variability in parental bedtimes was more closely related to variability in girls' bedtimes.
The association between the sleep habits of parents and teens remained significant after adjusting for other factors, such as studying, suggesting family sleep routines may shape adolescent sleep over and above other events in their life. The relationship between parent-teen sleep was strongest in larger families and those with greater parental support.