Evidence that implementation intentions support self-regulatory effort and improve adolescent sleep


  • C. Armitage


Background. Lack of sleep among adolescents is a major risk factor for psychiatric disorders, including self-harm. The present study aimed to: (a) test for the first time whether an implementation intention-based intervention could improve adolescents’ sleep, and (b) see whether the operation of implementation intentions could be improved by asking people to form second-person “if you-then you†plans as opposed to first-person “if I-then I†plans. Methods. 151 adolescents (aged 12-16 years) were given a supporting tool and were randomized to: (a) form “if I-then I†plans, (b) “if you-then you†plans, or (c) a control condition in which they were not asked to form “if-then†plans. Findings. Grammatical person did not affect the operation of the “if-then†plans, but adolescents who formed “if-then†plans were significantly more likely to achieve recommended levels of sleep, χ2(1, N = 121) = 3.65, p = .04. The effect of the intervention on sleep was mediated by changes in self-regulatory effort (95% CI = 0.20, 9.04). Discussion. “If-then†plans can support self-regulatory effort and improve sleep among adolescents. The supporting tool described in the present research could be deployed at low cost with high public health reach to achieve improvements in adolescents’ sleep.





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