The primary aim of the present study was to evaluate whether intra-individual variability in inhibition-related neural activation in response to sleep restriction is associated with eating behavior in adolescents aged 12-18 years. In addition, the potential moderating effects of sex and body mass index on the association between sleep and variability in neural activation were examined. This study employed a within-subjects crossover design that randomized subjects to both a 5 hours per night (sleep restricted) and 9 hours per night (well-rested) sleep condition for 5 nights, with experimental conditions separated by four weeks. On the 6th day of each study phase participants completed a 24-hour diet recall and a food-related inhibitory go/no-go task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. Repeated measures multilevel models examined individual differences attributable to sleep duration and a series of separate multivariate analysis of variance models examined the effect that vulnerability to sleep restriction has on eating behavior as well as the moderating impact of sex and weight status. Findings suggest that adolescents who exhibited greater efficiency in inhibitory and reward-related neural activation when sleep restricted demonstrated less pronounced decrements in neural activation when sleep restricted relative to when they were well-rested. These findings suggest that the effect of sleep restriction on inhibitory control may differ between individuals such that there are individuals who appear able to sustain inhibitory control comparable to when they are well-rested while other individuals show marked declines in executive functioning-related neural activation when sleep restricted. Results from separate exploratory models including regions of interest associated with reward valuation and across the whole brain were consistent with these findings. We also found that the effect of vulnerability to sleep restriction on inhibitory efficiency in the right inferior parietal lobule (R - IPL) and right middle frontal gyrus (R - MFG) differed by sex and was predictive of differences in overall eating behavior and sugar intake, respectively, when sleep restricted compared to well-rested. In addition, vulnerability in the inhibitory network was predictive of differences in individual eating behavior (i.e., total calories, added sugar, sugar, and total fat) for males and females across conditions. This finding demonstrates there is significant variability in the impact that sleep restriction has on inhibitory efficiency in adolescence relative to when they are well-rested, and vulnerability to inhibitory efficiency appears to effect male and female adolescent's dietary behaviors differently when they obtain insufficient sleep. Vulnerability to inhibitory efficiency when sleep restricted compared to well-rested may cause males and females to consume more energy dense foods when they obtain insufficient sleep and also differs for males and females irrespective of their sleep duration. Given the pervasiveness of chronic sleep restriction in adolescence, males who are unable to counter the effect that insufficient sleep has on palatable foods may be at greatest risk of obesity.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





individual variability, sleep restriction, inhibition-related neural activation, eating behavior