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Study finds social teens get less sleep. What should parents do to help?

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A new study has found that social teens struggle with insomnia and are getting less sleep than their less social peers.

Phones are only part of the reason, according to the research published in Frontiers in Sleep in May.

From sports to friendships, these teens who have trouble getting enough sleep have a lot on their schedules and their minds, says sleep expert Amanda Jewson in Toronto.

"They are highly scheduled ... but mostly what they found is kids are ruminating and planning their social relationships and friendships and they take on that mental load," Jewson said in an interview on CTV's Your Morning on Tuesday.

Teen girls tend to ruminate more than boys about how their day and social interactions went, she said.

"So they're often thinking about what they said, who said what to who," Jewson explained. "The weight of those day-to-day social interactions really weigh on girls specifically and they bring that home, they ruminate and they can't relax."

The average teen, aged 13 to 18, needs eight to 10 hours of sleep, Jewson said.

"We think of our big kids as almost mini-adults, but their brains are still developing and growing," she noted.

How to help teens sleep

Parents can help their children find ways to de-stress, such as exercise, meditation, journalling or talking to a school counsellor.

"I always like recommending a wind-down hour before bed," she suggested. "So, taking away that phone, maybe writing down the worries of the day, having that journal and really having some unwind and relax time before they go to bed."

Parents could also set boundaries, even when it seems like their teens are already big, by setting a bedtime to ensure they're getting adequate sleep.

Allow your kids to sleep in for one or two extra hours on the weekend to help them feel refreshed by Monday, she added. "They're missing out on significant amounts of sleep during the week. One to two hours on the weekend is going to kind of bring them back to baseline by Monday."

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