The effects of a prolonged cognitive task prior to sleep onset on subsequent sleep patterns were examined in 14 healthy subjects who were randomly assigned to two conditions. Those assigned to a working condition were asked to engage in a prolonged cognitive task until close to bedtime (0200 hours), whereas those assigned to a relaxing condition were instructed to perform the same task during the daytime and then to stay awake in a relaxed state until the same bedtime as the work group. Visual scoring of sleep stages showed no significant differences in the amounts of stage 4 and slow wave sleep (stage 3+4) between the two conditions. Power spectrum analysis of sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) revealed that the EEG delta (0.5-4.0 Hz) power density in the first non-rapid eye movement (REM)-REM sleep cycle was significantly lower following the prolonged cognitive task prior to sleep onset than following the relaxed wakefulness and that the decreased EEG delta power density in the first sleep cycle was not compensated for during the later part of the sleep. These findings would indicate that the prolonged cognitive task prior to sleep onset may suppress EEG delta power density during subsequent sleep, suggesting that such a task may interfere with the development of deep non-REM sleep.