A study of 13 boys and girls between 10 and 16 years of age shows that the build-up of sleep pressure, or sleep need, during an extended period of wakefulness is slower in adolescents than in pre-teens.
The study results are published in the November 1 issue of the journal Sleep.
Participants in the study remained awake for 36 consecutive hours in a sleep laboratory, where their sleep electroencephalograms (EEGs) were continuously recorded by polysomnography.
The slower build-up of sleep pressure in mature adolescents is seen in their levels of EEG slow-wave activity, which tend to be high when the need for sleep is greatest, according to background information in the article.
The researchers indicate that their findings may help explain the tendency of teens to go to bed later at night and sleep later in the morning.
“We propose that the higher tolerance to prolonged waking may prepare children for adult lifestyles and for performing tasks under sleep deficits that are common in adults of modern societies,” the authors conclude.
Sleep is the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.