Benefits of Sleep Extension on Sustained Attention and Sleep Pressure Before and During Total Sleep Deprivation and Recovery

Sleep. 2015 Dec 1;38(12):1935-43. doi: 10.5665/sleep.5244.


Objectives: To investigate the effects of 6 nights of sleep extension on sustained attention and sleep pressure before and during total sleep deprivation and after a subsequent recovery sleep.

Design: Subjects participated in two experimental conditions (randomized cross-over design): extended sleep (EXT, 9.8 ± 0.1 h (mean ± SE) time in bed) and habitual sleep (HAB, 8.2 ± 0.1 h time in bed). In each condition, subjects performed two consecutive phases: (1) 6 nights of either EXT or HAB (2) three days in-laboratory: baseline, total sleep deprivation and after 10 h of recovery sleep.

Setting: Residential sleep extension and sleep performance laboratory (continuous polysomnographic recording).

Participants: 14 healthy men (age range: 26-37 years).

Interventions: EXT vs. HAB sleep durations prior to total sleep deprivation.

Measurements and results: Total sleep time and duration of all sleep stages during the 6 nights were significantly higher in EXT than HAB. EXT improved psychomotor vigilance task performance (PVT, both fewer lapses and faster speed) and reduced sleep pressure as evidenced by longer multiple sleep latencies (MSLT) at baseline compared to HAB. EXT limited PVT lapses and the number of involuntary microsleeps during total sleep deprivation. Differences in PVT lapses and speed and MSLT at baseline were maintained after one night of recovery sleep.

Conclusion: Six nights of extended sleep improve sustained attention and reduce sleep pressure. Sleep extension also protects against psychomotor vigilance task lapses and microsleep degradation during total sleep deprivation. These beneficial effects persist after one night of recovery sleep.

Keywords: cognitive performance; involuntary microsleep; recovery sleep; sleep deprivation; sleep extension.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology