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Why Adults Scorn Teens For Sleeping Too Much

New research suggests that oversleeping makes teen feels better, and adults feel worse

smithsonian.com

Teenagers love to sleep. You know this whether you’re a parent or a sitcom watcher. And while their habits may be the brunt of jokes and parental groaning, new research suggests that teenagers are sleeping in for a good reason.

A new study kept track of 397 people from age 12 to 88 for nine days. Six times a day the researchers caught up with their subjects on the phone, asking them about their sleep. As you might expect more sleep was good for people—people who slept less than average felt worse. But they also found that the impact of sleeping more wasn’t uniform. Eric Horowitz, a blogger at Peer Reviewed by My Neurons, explains:

The researchers found that for adolescents, there was a positive linear relationship between sleep and positive affect. Compared to an average night of sleep, adolescents felt better with one extra hour, even better with two extra hours, and even better with three extra hours. The more the merrier.

However, for the elderly and middle-aged adults, too much sleep led to less well-being. Instead of there being a linear relationship between sleep duration and positive affect, the relationship resembled an inverted U. A night of below-average sleep left adults feeling worse than average, but so did a night in which they slept three hours more than usual. If adults think it’s a bad idea for kids to sleep until noon, that’s because for adults it actually is a bad idea.

In other words, “[i]n adults, but not adolescents, not only sleeping less but also sleeping more than one’s average can be associated with lower affective well-being,” as the researchers write. So scoff at your teen all you want, but that sleep feels a lot better for them than it probably does for you.

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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