Preschool executive control and sleep problems in early adolescence

Timothy D. Nelson, Katherine M. Kidwell, Maren Hankey, Jennifer Mize Nelson, Kimberly Andrews Espy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Although numerous studies have documented the effects of sleep loss on executive control (EC) and related abilities, research examining the impact of early EC on subsequent sleep problems is lacking. Therefore, the current study reports on a longitudinal investigation of EC in preschool as a predictor of sleep–wake problems and daytime sleepiness in early adolescence. Participants: The participants were 141 children (48.6% female) recruited from the community for a longitudinal study spanning preschool through early adolescence, with an oversampling for high sociodemographic risk (34.1% based on eligibility for public medical insurance, free or reduced lunch status, or family income-to-needs below the federal poverty line). Methods: Participants completed a battery of developmentally appropriate tasks assessing major aspects of EC (working memory, inhibitory control, flexible shifting) during a laboratory visit at age 4 years, 6 months. Participants also completed a follow-up session in early adolescence (between ages 11 years and 13.5 years; mean age = 11.82 years, SD =.62 years), during which they completed self-report measures of sleep–wake problems and daytime sleepiness. Results: Structural equation modeling results indicate that preschool EC (represented by a single latent construct) significantly negatively predicted both sleep–wake problems and daytime sleepiness in early adolescence, with poorer EC predicting greater subsequent sleep problems. Conclusions: Poorer EC abilities during the critical period of preschool may be a risk factor for later sleep problems in adolescence. Given that EC appears to be modifiable, early interventions to promote EC development may help prevent subsequent sleep problems and promote long-term health trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)494-503
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Sleep Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 3 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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