Sleep and self-control: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Sleep Med Rev. 2021 Oct:59:101514. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101514. Epub 2021 Jun 5.


Controlling impulses and overcoming temptations (i.e., self-control) are key aspects of living a productive life. There is a growing yet disperse literature indicating that sleep is an important predictor of self-control. The goal of this meta-analysis is to empirically integrate the findings from multiple literatures, and investigate whether sleep quality, and sleep duration predict self-control. To provide a thorough understanding of the proposed relationships, this meta-analysis also investigated potential differences between the level of analysis (between-individual vs. within-individual), research design (experiment vs. correlation; and cross-sectional vs. time-lagged), and types of measure (subjective vs. objective for sleep and self-control). A systematic review was conducted through ABI/Inform (including PsycInfo), ERIC, ProQuest Dissertation & Theses, PubMed, and Psychology Database using keywords related to self-control and sleep. Sixty-one independent studies met the inclusion criteria. The results, in general, suggest that sleep quality (between-individual 0.26, CI 0.21; 0.31; and within-individual 0.35, CI 0.24; 0.45), and sleep duration (between-individual 0.14, CI 0.07; 0.21; and within-individual 0.20, CI 0.09; 0.31) are all related to self-control. Given the impact of self-control on how individuals live productive lives, a future research agenda should include a deeper investigation in the causal process (potentially via prefrontal cortex activity) linking sleep and self-control, and an examination of the moderators (individual and contextual variables) that could impact the relationship between sleep and self-control.

Keywords: Impulses; Self-control; Sleep duration; Sleep quality; Temptations.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Sleep*