Objective: Despite their high prevalence in daily life, repeated night-wakings and their cognitive and emotional consequences have received less research attention compared to other types of sleep disturbances. Our aim was to experimentally compare the effects of one night of induced infrequent night-wakings (of ∼15 min, each requiring a purposeful response) and sleep restriction on sustained attention and mood in young adults.
Methods: In a within-between subjects counterbalanced design, 61 healthy adults (40 females; aged 20-29 years) underwent home assessments of sustained attention and self-reported mood at two times: after a normal (control) sleep night, and after a night of either sleep restriction (4h in bed) or induced night-wakings (four prolonged awakenings across 8h in bed). Sleep was monitored using actigraphy and sleep diaries. Sustained attention was assessed using an online continuous performance test (OCPT), and mood was reported online using the Profile of Mood States (POMS).
Results: Actigraphic data revealed good compliance with experimental sleep requirements. Induced night-wakings and sleep restriction both resulted in more OCPT omission and commission errors, and in increased depression, fatigue and confusion levels and reduced vigor compared to the normal sleep night. Moreover, there were no significant differences between the consequences of induced awakenings and sleep restriction.
Conclusions: Our pilot study indicates that, similar to sleep restriction, one night of life-like repeated night-wakings negatively affects mood and sustained attention.
Keywords: Actigraphy; Attention; Continuous performance test; Mood; Night-wakings; Sleep restriction.
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