Sleep tendency (latency to sleep onset) was examined during extended waking in prepubertal and mature adolescents to determine whether sleep pressure is lower near bedtime in the latter group. Participants were nine prepubertal (pubertal stage Tanner 1, mean age 11.1 years, SD+/-1.3 years, five males) and 11 pubertally mature adolescents (Tanner 5, 13.9+/-1.2 years, three males). They spent 10 nights at home on an identical fixed 10-h sleep schedule followed by a 36-h constant routine with sleep latency tests at 2-h intervals using standard polysomnography. Saliva was collected to assess dim-light melatonin onset (DLMO) phase. DLMO was earlier in the Tanner 1 (mean clock time=20:33 hours, SD=49 min) than Tanner 5 group (21:29 hours+/-42 min). Sleep latency compared at a 'critical period' spanning 12.5 (20:30 hours clock time) to 18.5 h (02:30 hours) after waking did not differ at 20:30 hours, but was shorter for the Tanner 1 group at 22:30 hours (Tanner 1=9.2+/-6.3 min; Tanner 5=15.7+/-5.8 min), 00:30 hours (Tanner 1=3.6+/-1.7 min; Tanner 5=9.0+/-6.4 min), and 02:30 hours (Tanner 1=2.0+/-1.7 min; Tanner 5=4.3+/-3.2 min; trend). These differences were apparent controlling for circadian phase by partial correlation. Sleep tendency after 14.5, 16.5, and 18.5 h awake was lower in mature versus prepubertal adolescents, supporting our hypothesis that a developmental change of intrinsic sleep-wake regulation may provide physiologically mediated 'permission' for later bedtimes in older adolescents.