Effects of rapid versus slow accumulation of eight hours of sleep loss

Psychophysiology. 2001 Nov;38(6):979-87. doi: 10.1111/1469-8986.3860979.


The present study assessed alertness, memory, and performance following three schedules of approximately 8 hr of sleep loss (slow, intermediate, and rapid accumulation) in comparison to an 8-hr time in bed (TIB) sleep schedule. Twelve healthy individuals aged 21-35 completed each of four conditions according to a Latin Square design: no sleep loss (8-hr TIB for 4 nights; 2300-0700), slow (6-hr TIB for 4 nights; 0100-0700), intermediate (4-hr TIB for 2 nights; 0300-0700), and rapid (0-hr TIB for 1 night) sleep loss. On each day, participants completed a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), a probed-recall memory task, a psychomotor vigilance task, a divided attention task, and the Profile of Mood States. "Rapid" sleep loss produced significantly more impairment on tests of alertness, memory, and performance compared to the "slow" accumulation of a comparable amount of sleep loss. The impairing effects of sleep loss vary as a function of rate, suggesting the presence of a compensatory adaptive mechanism operating in conjunction with the accumulation of a sleep debt.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology*