Feasibility and Emotional Impact of Experimentally Extending Sleep in Short-Sleeping Adolescents.

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Abstract

Study Objectives

Published experimental sleep manipulation protocols for adolescents have been limited to the summer, limiting causal conclusions about how short sleep affects them on school nights, when they are most likely to restrict their sleep. This study assesses the feasibility and emotional impact of a school-night sleep manipulation protocol to test the effects of lengthening sleep in habitually short-sleeping adolescents.

Methods

High school students aged 14-18 years who habitually slept 5-7 hours on school nights participated in a 5-week experimental sleep manipulation protocol. Participants completed a baseline week followed in randomized counterbalanced order by two experimental conditions lasting 2 weeks each: prescribed habitual sleep (HAB; sleep time set to match baseline) and sleep extension (EXT; 1.5-hour increase in time in bed from HAB). All sleep was obtained at home, monitored with actigraphy. Data on adherence, protocol acceptability, mood and behavior were collected at the end of each condition.

Results

Seventy-six adolescents enrolled in the study, with 54 retained through all 5 weeks. Compared to HAB, during EXT, participants averaged an additional 72.6 minutes/night of sleep (p < .001) and had reduced symptoms of sleepiness, anger, vigor, fatigue, and confusion (p < .05). The large majority of parents (98%) and adolescents (100%) said they would "maybe" or "definitely" recommend the study to another family.

Conclusions

An experimental, school-night sleep manipulation protocol can be feasibly implemented which directly tests the potential protective effects of lengthening sleep. Many short-sleeping adolescents would benefit emotionally from sleeping longer, supporting public health efforts to promote adolescent sleep on school nights.

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