Romance, Breakup Can Disrupt Adolescents’ Sleep, Research Finds

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Oct. 3, 2023 -- Starting romantic relationships or going through a breakup can have a negative impact on adolescents’ sleep patterns, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania studied 7,000 Chinese students who were in the 7th, 8th or 10th grade at the beginning of the study. The youth completed questionnaires about their romantic experiences within the previous year and their sleep patterns.

The study was published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

Researchers also noted the teens’ age, sex, smoking, alcohol use, family socioeconomic status, parents’ marital status, and depressive symptoms.

The researchers found that teens had a 41% increase in insomnia if they had started a relationship; a 35% increase if they had been in a breakup; and a 45% increase if they had both in the previous year.

Then they questioned the teens again one year later.

“When re-examining the adolescents one year later, those who had entered into a relationship were found to have a 61% higher chance of new insomnia symptoms, and those who experienced a break-up had a 43% increased chance of developing new insomnia symptoms,” PsyPost reported.

The researchers found that romantic relationships affected sleep quality and quantity in the short term and a year later. Stress, hormones, and psychosocial development could also be involved.

Kids under 15 seemed to have a greater struggle. So did girls.

“Notably, the results must be viewed through the lens of traditional Chinese culture. Involvement in relationships as an adolescent deviates from social norms and thus the stresses of entering or ending a relationship could be exacerbated, and consequently sleep problems could be amplified,” PsyPost wrote.

The study’s authors said more research is needed to see if this applies in other cultures.

“The findings suggest that SRR and breakups are associated with insomnia symptoms and short sleep duration, underscoring the importance of romantic relationships education and management of romantic stress for healthy sleep especially in early adolescent girls,” the authors wrote.