Psychomotor vigilance performance is highly relevant to athletic performance. It is influenced by a sleep homeostatic process, which builds up pressure for sleep during wakefulness and dissipates this pressure during sleep, and a circadian rhythm process, which produces a waxing and waning of pressure for wakefulness over a 24 hours of the day. During total sleep deprivation, these two processes cause performance to deteriorate progressively over days, modulated within days by further performance reductions at night and relative improvements during the daytime. As the homeostatic pressure for sleep builds up higher across prolonged wakefulness, the rate of dissipation of that pressure during subsequent sleep is enhanced exponentially, so that even brief periods of sleep provide significant performance recuperation. Nevertheless, sleep restriction practiced on a chronic basis induces cumulative performance deficits of the same order of magnitude as observed during total sleep deprivation. There are also considerable individual differences in the degree of vulnerability to performance impairment from sleep loss, and these differences represent a trait.