A study in the December 2016 Pediatrics indicated that, among adolescents, daytime sleepiness and a circadian-based eveningness chronotype (the tendency to be a “night owl” who falls asleep later and wakes up later) are stronger predictors of poor self-regulation than a short amount of nighttime sleep.
The study, “Self-Regulation and Sleep Duration, Sleepiness, and Chronotype in Adolescents,” (to be published online Nov. 1), surveyed 2,017 students between 7th and 12th grades in Fairfax County, Va., schools.
Self-regulation is defined in the study as “the act of managing cognition and emotion” in a way that that helps to organize behavior, control impulses and solve problems constructively. Self-regulation is governed by a number of brain regions that undergo profound developmental changes during adolescence. Impaired self-regulation is associated with adverse effects on health and functioning, with long-term implications.
The authors suggest that early school start times may interfere with teens’ self-regulation because during puberty most children naturally shift to a “night owl” tendency, making teens sleepy early in the day when greater self-regulation is required to meet academic and social demands.