The current meta-analytic review evaluated the effects of experimentally manipulated sleep restriction on neurocognitive functioning. Random-effects models were employed to estimate the overall effect size and the differential effect size across cognitive domains. Age, time of day, age-adjusted sleep deficit, cumulative days of restricted sleep, sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, and biological sex were examined as potential moderators of the effect. Based on a sample of 61 studies, from 71 different populations, findings revealed a significant negative effect of sleep restriction on cognitive processing across cognitive domains (g=-0.383, p<0.001). This effect held for executive functioning (g=-0.324, p<0.001), sustained attention (g=-0.409, p<0.001), and long-term memory (g=-0.192, p=0.002). There was insufficient evidence to detect an effect within the domains of attention, multitask, impulsive decision-making or intelligence. Age group, time of day, cumulative days of restricted sleep, sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, and biological sex were all significant moderators of the overall effect. In conclusion, the current meta-analysis is the first comprehensive review to provide evidence that short-term sleep restriction significantly impairs waking neurocognitive functioning.
Keywords: Cognition; Meta-analysis; Neurocognitive functioning; Sleep restriction.
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