Too Tired to Think: Within and Between-Person Relations Among Impulsive Traits, Sleep Duration, and Mental Health Outcomes


Waddell, Jack T. & Sasser, Jeri (2022). Too Tired to Think: Within and Between-Person Relations Among Impulsive Traits, Sleep Duration, and Mental Health Outcomes. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction.


Heavier drinking and depression are common mental health concerns in the USA, yet few studies have sought to understand transdiagnostic risk factors for both. Two health-focused risk factors are impulsive personality traits and sleep duration, but research typically separates the two, precluding additive and interactive relations. The current study sought to test a theoretical model where risk conferred from impulsive traits is heightened when individuals have reduced sleep. Public-access data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) were used to test study hypotheses. Participants reported on impulsive traits (i.e., lack of premeditation, sensation seeking), sleep duration, depression, and drinking across three waves spanning adolescence, emerging adulthood, and adulthood. Multilevel models distinguished risk processes at the between- vs. within-person level. At the between-person level, sensation seeking predicted drinking whereas premeditation predicted depression. Additionally, within-person deviations in both traits were associated with drinking, whereas within-person deviations in premeditation were associated with depression. Sleep duration was protective against outcomes at both levels. However, main effects were qualified by interactions at both levels, such that having below average sleep duration heightened the effects of premeditation at the between-person level, whereas within-person decreases in sleep heightened the effects of sensation seeking at the within-person level. Findings support a theoretical model where poor sleep exacerbates risk conferred from impulsive traits. Risk conferred from impulsive traits diverged based upon level of analysis, suggesting that global and just-in-time interventions may benefit from targeting specific impulsive traits as well as sleep.




Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction


Waddell, Jack T.
Sasser, Jeri

Year Published



Aug 17, 2022





Reference ID