Mild to moderate partial sleep deprivation is associated with increased impulsivity and decreased positive affect in young adults

Sleep. 2020 Oct 13;43(10):zsaa078. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsaa078.


The effects of mild-moderate partial sleep deprivation on affective and cognitive functioning were evaluated in a naturalistic home environment, mimicking short sleep typically caused by demands from work or society. A total of 52 healthy individuals aged 18-35 was included in an 11-day study protocol. Participants slept at home, and sleep patterns were observed using actigraphs and sleep diaries. After maintaining habitual sleep for 7 days, the participants were asked to sleep 2 hours less than their average sleep duration for the last three nights of the study protocol. A not-X continuous performance test was administered at 9 am (± 90 minutes) on days 1, 4, 8 (habitual sleep), 9 and 11 (sleep deprivation). Performance-based measures included response accuracy and speed. Participant-reported measures included how well the participants felt they performed and how exhausted they were from taking the test, as well as positive and negative affect. There was a significant change in reaction time, number of commission errors, subjective performance, subjective exertion, and positive affect across the visits. Specifically, there was a linear decrease in reaction time, performance, and positive affect throughout the study, and a significant quadratic trend for commissions and exertion (first decreasing, then increasing after sleep deprivation). The univariate tests for omissions and negative affect were not significant. We conclude that sleeping 1.5-2 hours less than usual leads to faster response speed, but more commission errors and decreased positive affect. This indicates that individuals become more impulsive and experience less positive affect after a period of short sleep.

Keywords: affect; cognitive control function; executive function; short sleep; sleep deprivation; sleep restriction; speed-accuracy trade-off.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Facial Expression*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Deprivation* / complications
  • Young Adult