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Chronobiol Int. 2008 Apr;25(2):297-308.

Sleepiness and performance in response to repeated sleep restriction and subsequent recovery during semi-laboratory conditions.

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Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


There is an ongoing debate of how best to measure the effects of sleep loss in a reliable and feasible way, partly because well controlled laboratory studies and field studies have come to different conclusions. The aims of the present study were to investigate both sleepiness and performance in response to long-term sleep restriction and recovery in a semi-laboratory environment, investigate order effects (i.e., whether levels return to baseline) in a study with seven days of recovery, and characterize individual differences in tolerance to restricted sleep. Nine healthy men (age 23-28 yrs) participated in the protocol, which included one habituation day (sleep 23:00-07:00 h), two baseline days (23:00-07:00 h), five days with restricted sleep (03:00-07:00 h), and seven recovery days (23:00-07:00 h). Participants went outdoors at least twice each day. Reaction-time tests were performed at 08:00, 14:00, and 20:00 h each day in the laboratory. Sleepiness was self-rated by the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS)after each test. The mixed-effect regression models showed that each day of restricted sleep resulted in an increase of sleepiness by 0.64+/- .05 KSS units (a nine-step scale, p < .001), increase of median reaction times of 6.6+/- 1.6 ms ( p = .003), and increase of lapses/test of 0.69 +/- .16 ms ( p < .001). Seven days of recovery allowed participants to return to the baseline for sleepiness and median reaction time, but not for lapses. The individual differences were larger for performance measures than for sleepiness; the between-subject standard deviation for the random intercept was in the magnitude of the effects of 1.1 days of restricted sleep for sleepiness, 6.6 days of restricted sleep for median reaction time, and 3.2 days for lapses. In conclusion, the present study shows that sleepiness is closely related to sleep pressure, while performance measures, to a larger extent, appear determined by specific individual traits. Moreover, it is suggested to measure sleepiness in a standardized situation so as to minimize the influences of contextual factors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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