Trait-like vulnerability to total and partial sleep loss

Sleep. 2012 Aug 1;35(8):1163-72. doi: 10.5665/sleep.2010.


Objective: To determine the extent to which individual differences in vulnerability to total sleep deprivation also reflect individual differences in vulnerability to multiple nights of sleep restriction.

Design: Two sleep loss conditions (order counterbalanced) separated by 2 to 4 weeks: (a) total sleep deprivation (TSD) of 2 nights (63 h continuous wakefulness); (b) sleep restriction (SR) of 7 nights of 3 h nightly time in bed (TIB). Both conditions were preceded by 7 in-laboratory nights with 10 h nightly TIB; and followed by 3 recovery nights with 8 h nightly TIB. Measures of cognitive performance (psychomotor vigilance, working memory [1-Back], and mathematical processing), objective alertness, subjective sleepiness, and mood were obtained at regular intervals under both conditions. Intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC) were computed using outcome metrics averaged over the last day (08:00-20:00) of TSD and SR.

Setting: Residential sleep/performance testing facility.

Participants: Nineteen healthy adults (ages 18-39; 11 males, 8 females).

Interventions: 2 nights of TSD and 7 nights SR (3 h nightly TIB).

Results: volunteers who displayed greater vulnerability to TSD displayed greater vulnerability to SR on cognitive performance tasks (ICC: PVT lapses = 0.89; PVT speed = 0.86; 1-Back = 0.88; mathematical processing = 0.68, Ps < 0.05). In addition, trait-like responsivity to TSD/SR was found for mood variables vigor (ICC = 0.91), fatigue (ICC = 0.73), and happiness (ICC = 0.85) (all Ps < 0.05).

Conclusion: Resilience to sleep loss is a trait-like characteristic that reflects an individual's ability to maintain performance during both types of sleep loss (SR and TSD). Whether the findings extend to sleep schedules other than those investigated here (63 h of TSD and 7 nights of 3 h nightly TIB) will be the focus of future studies.

Keywords: Sleep deprivation; cognitive performance; individual differences; mood; partial sleep deprivation; sleep restriction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Polysomnography
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology
  • Young Adult