The investigation of time-of-day effects on cognitive performance began in the early days of psychophysiological performance assessments. Since then, standardised, highly controlled protocols (constant routine and forced desynchrony) and a standard performance task (psychomotor vigilance task) have been developed to quantify sleep-wake homeostatic and internal circadian time-dependent effects on human cognitive performance. However, performance assessment in this field depends on a plethora of factors. The roles of task difficulty, task duration and complexity, the performance measure per se, practice effects, inter-individual differences, and ageing are all relevant aspects. Therefore, well-defined theoretical approaches and standard procedures are needed for tasks pinpointing higher cortical functions along with more information about time-dependent changes in the neural basis of task performance. This promises a fascinating challenge for future research on sleep-wake related and circadian aspects of different cognitive domains.