Introduction: Caffeine is widely used to reverse alertness and performance decrements. However, caffeine's effects on subsequent recovery sleep and post-recovery performance are not well documented and, therefore, were evaluated.
Methods: Six habitually low (LC: < or = 100 mg x d(-1)) and three habitually high (HC: > or = 400 mg x d(-1)) caffeine users completed a randomized crossover design. After 20 h of wakefulness, repeated doses of caffeine gum [0 (placebo) mg, 100 (low dose) mg, or 300 (high dose) mg] were administered at 03:00, 05:00, and 07:00. At 10:00 (27 h sleep deprivation) subjects slept for 8 h, followed by Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT) administration at 33 and 65 min post-awakening.
Results: Low dose caffeine increased stage 1 minutes only. However, high dose caffeine impaired sleep maintenance (reduced total sleep time/increased wake) and reduced sleep depth (increased stage 1 minutes/percentage and slow-wave sleep (SWS) latency, and reduced SWS minutes during the first third of the sleep period). With high dose caffeine, LC users had less SWS percentage as compared with HC users. The HC users had reduced stage 2 percentage with high dose caffeine as compared with placebo and low dose caffeine. Caffeine dose and habitual caffeine use did not influence post-recovery sleep PVT performance.
Discussion: Caffeine exerts mild deleterious dose-response effects on recovery sleep following total sleep deprivation, primarily early in the sleep period, with potential recovery from these effects after sufficient sleep as suggested by lack of post-recovery sleep performance deficits. Habitual caffeine use appears to minimally reduce caffeine effects.