Studies have shown that next-day performance and alertness are impaired by sleep fragmentation procedures even when total sleep time (TST) is unaffected. Based on these studies it has been hypothesized that both the duration and continuity of sleep determine its recuperative value. This review of the literature suggests that when sleep fragmentation procedures increase the relative amount of stage 1 sleep, next-day performance and alertness are impaired. Other studies suggest that stage 1 sleep has little or no recuperative value. Total sleep time, however, is typically defined as the sum of time spent in sleep stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM. In the present paper it is shown that when stage 1 sleep is excluded from TST, a stronger relationship between TST and subsequent alertness and performance emerges--and the need to invoke 'sleep continuity' as a variable that contributes independently to recuperative sleep processes is obviated. In the same way that partial or total sleep deprivation impairs alertness and performance, it is proposed that sleep disruption also impairs alertness and performance by reducing true recuperative sleep time.