Neurobehavioral Impact of Successive Cycles of Sleep Restriction With and Without Naps in Adolescents

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Study Objectives:

To characterize adolescents' neurobehavioral changes during two cycles of restricted and recovery sleep and to examine the effectiveness of afternoon naps in ameliorating neurobehavioral deficits associated with multiple nights of sleep restriction.


Fifty-seven healthy adolescents (aged 15-19 years; 31 males) participated in a parallel group study. They underwent two cycles of sleep restriction (5-hr time in bed [TIB] for five and three nights in the first and the second cycles, respectively; 01:00-06:00) and recovery (9-hr TIB for two nights per cycle; 23:00-08:00) intended to simulate the weekday sleep loss and weekend attempt to “catch up” on sleep. Half of the participants received a 1-hr nap opportunity at 14:00 following each sleep-restricted night, while the other half stayed awake. Sustained attention, sleepiness, speed of processing, executive function, and mood were assessed 3 times each day.


Participants who were not allowed to nap showed progressive decline in sustained attention that did not return to baseline after two nights of recovery sleep. Exposure to the second period of sleep restriction increased the rate of vigilance deterioration. Similar patterns were found for other neurobehavioral measures. Napping attenuated but did not eliminate performance decline. These findings contrasted with the stable performance of adolescents, given 9-hr TIB each night in our recent study.


Adolescents' neurobehavioral functions may not adapt to successive cycles of sleep curtailment and recovery. In sleep-restricted adolescents, weekend “catch-up sleep,” even when combined with napping during weekdays, is inferior to receiving a 9-hr sleep opportunity each night.

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