Manipulating sleep duration perception changes cognitive performance - An exploratory analysis

J Psychosom Res. 2020 May:132:109992. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2020.109992. Epub 2020 Mar 4.


Objectives: To test the effect of perceived sleep duration on cognitive performance.

Methods: Sixteen healthy individuals [8F; mean age (± SD): 24.2 ± 3.0 years)] received an 8-h sleep opportunity followed by a 5-h opportunity on two consecutive nights. Upon waking, they were randomized to being informed that they received either an 8-h or 5-h sleep opportunity, via a clock that ran either fast, slow or normally. Cognitive performance was assessed using 10-min auditory psychomotor vigilance tests and subjective sleepiness ratings. Homeostatic and circadian sleep drive was assessed using waking electroencephalography (EEG).

Results: Reaction time was significantly quicker when individuals thought that they had slept for 8 h but given a 5-h sleep opportunity. Conversely, reaction times were significantly slower when individuals thought they had 5 h of sleep but given an 8-h sleep opportunity. EEG delta power (1.0-4.5 Hz) during wake increased significantly when sleep was restricted to 5 h, and individuals thought they slept for 5 h, but this increase was attenuated with a perceived sleep duration of 8 h following a 5-h opportunity. EEG delta power did not increase, however, with perceived sleep restriction. EEG high-alpha activity (10.5-11.5 Hz) was consistently higher when participants thought that they had an 8-h sleep opportunity, regardless of the actual duration.

Conclusions: These results suggest that perceived sleep duration may modulate psychosomatic responses. Additional studies with predefined outcomes and analyses are necessary to confirm these findings, which may have important implications for understanding how sleep affects cognition and psychosomatic responses.

Keywords: Alertness; Cognition; False-clock paradigm; Perceived time; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perception
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology*
  • Young Adult