Adolescent sleep patterns are associated with the selection of positive and negative emotional situations

Cara A. Palmer, Candice A. Alfano, Joanne L. Bower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Poor sleep in youth is a risk factor for experiencing increased negative emotions and decreased positive emotions, which can contribute to the development of later emotional disorders. Understanding of specific processes that produce sleep‐related alterations in emotion is limited, although preliminary studies suggest changes in the ability to appropriately regulate or control emotions as one mechanism. The current study builds on this research by examining the relationship between adolescent sleep patterns and a previously unexplored emotion regulation strategy: situation selection. Situation selection strategies are implemented prior to the onset of an emotional experience via decisions to approach rewarding/positive situations or avoid unwanted/negative situations. Fifty‐four healthy adolescents (ages 13–17 years) completed 1 week of actigraphy and assessments of situation selection using: (a) trait‐based questionnaires; (b) daily reports; and (c) an experimental lab task where participants were given the option to watch various emotional video clips of their choice. Greater variability in sleep timing was associated with less avoidance of negative emotional situations, and a longer sleep‐onset latency was associated with more avoidance of negative emotional situations. Greater variability in nightly sleep patterns was also associated with decreased tendencies to select positive emotional situations as assessed by trait questionnaires, daily reports, and the lab‐based task, but only for boys. These findings add to a growing body of research on sleep and emotional experience, and provide further support for the importance of intra‐individual variability of sleep patterns in youth.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12917
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number6
Early online date18 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Cite this