Previous studies that have quantified fatigue-related cognitive impairment as blood alcohol concentration (BAC) equivalents have been limited by two issues: the effect of practice on tests of cognition and, more importantly, the statistic used to quantify change in cognitive performance. The current study addressed these issues by adopting an ABACA design, which allowed for the adequate control of practice effects, and by using effect size metrics, which enabled direct comparisons to be made in performance impairments as a result of fatigue (i.e. sustained wakefulness of 24 h) and alcohol (i.e. BAC of 0.05%). Cognitive performance under the fatigue and alcohol conditions required the use of the CogState battery. It was demonstrated that fatigue caused greater impairment than alcohol on the speed of continuous attention and memory and learning, and on the accuracy of complex matching. Alcohol was more detrimental than fatigue only on the accuracy of memory and learning. Performances on the remaining tasks were the same for both the fatigue and alcohol conditions. These differences and similarities in performance impairment are discussed emphasizing the deleterious cognitive effects of relatively short periods of sustained wakefulness.