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Biol Psychol. 1987 Oct;25(2):153-72.

Sleep and performance in young adults and older normals and insomniacs during acute sleep loss and recovery.

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Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Hospital, Loma Linda, CA 92357.


Many changes occur in sleep as a function of aging, but it is not known whether these changes result in sleep being less restorative. To examine the sleep restorative process, groups of 12 normal young adults and 12 normal and 12 insomniac male subjects, age 55-71, were totally sleep deprived for 64 hours and then allowed recovery sleep. Response speed, immediate recall, sleepiness, and body temperature were tested at approximately 2300, 0115, 0330, 0530 and 0800 during baseline, sleep loss, and recovery nights. Significant group (age or insomnia) by sleep loss condition interactions were found for reaction time and immediate recall performance measures. Similar significant interactions were found for oral temperature and all EEG sleep variables except total time in bed, percent stage 1, and percent REM. It was concluded that performance recovery following sleep loss was no slower in older subjects than in younger subjects despite very different recovery sleep stage parameters. This implied that aging effects on sleep are developmental rather than degenerative.

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