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Individual differences in subjective and objective alertness during sleep deprivation are stable and unrelated.

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Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


This study examines the individual reproducibility of alterations of subjective, objective, and EEG measures of alertness during 27 h of continuous wakefulness and analyzes their interrelationships. Eight subjects were studied twice under similar constant-routine conditions. Scales and performance tasks were administered at hourly intervals to define temporal changes in subjective and objective alertness. The wake EEG was recorded every 2 h, 2 min with eyes open and 2 min with eyes closed. Plasma glucose and melatonin levels were measured to estimate brain glucose utilization and individual circadian phase, respectively. Decrements of subjective alertness and performance deficits were found to be highly reproducible for a given individual. Remarkably, there was no relationship between the impairments of subjective and objective alertness. With increased duration of wakefulness, EEG activity with eyes closed increased in the delta range and decreased in the alpha range, but the magnitudes of these changes were also unrelated. These findings indicate that sleep deprivation has highly reproducible, but independent, effects on brain mechanisms controlling subjective and objective alertness.

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