Impact of Experimental Sleep Extension on Adolescent Social Emotion Regulation



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Approximately 80% of adolescents do not receive adequate sleep. Sleep loss is particularly detrimental to emotional functioning, yet examination of the protective qualities of increased sleep are lacking. The current study sought to expand existing knowledge in this area by comparing teens assigned to either sleep extension (SE) or typical sleep (TS) conditions on multimodal measures of mood, emotional reactivity, and emotion regulation within a social context. A total of 30 adolescents were enrolled. Baseline measures of psychological symptoms, sleep problems/disorders, and mood were completed prior to 7 nights of at-home, typical sleep (Phase 1; baseline phase). Participants were then randomized to either SE (n = 20; required to sleep additional 30 minutes) or TS (n = 10; no sleep directions given) for 5 nights (Phase 2; experimental phase). A total of 10 participants randomized to SE were excluded due to non-compliance with sleep manipulation, resulting in a final sample of n=20 adolescents. Participants returned to the lab following Phase 2 for an assessment of emotional reactivity and emotion regulation via a computerized task (frustrating computer game) and two computerized social interactions (naturalistic and manipulated interactions) designed with specific emotional goals. Both subjective and objective measures of emotion were collected. Results indicated that participants in the SE group displayed greater (i.e., more appropriate) negative facial expression (large effect size) during the frustrating computer game. More effective emotion regulation was also detected in the SE group, demonstrated by an increase in subjective ratings of valence and arousal and objective language (word count) during a goal directed social interaction relative to a naturalistic interaction task (medium effect sizes), even after engaging in a frustrating computer game. These patterns were not observed in the TS group. Together, results suggest that an additional 30 minutes of sleep for 5 nights assisted adolescents in up-regulating positive affect in order to meet social interaction goals. These findings may have meaningful implications for adaptive peer functioning and reduced affective risk during the vulnerable socio-emotional period of adolescence. Although findings need to be replicated in larger samples, preliminary results suggest that an additional 30 minutes of sleep may improve emotion regulation skills in healthy adolescents.



Sleep, Adolescence, Emotions