Only a few studies have been devoted to the interaction of noise with sleep deprivation and time of day. In a previous study we demonstrated that noise had an alerting effect on cognitive performance during the early night but not during the late night. However, it was not clear whether these different effects of noise were related to prior sleep debt or to time of day as both factors varied simultaneously. In the present experiment, we further studied this issue to identify which of these two factors was responsible for the noise effects. Analysis showed that, when performance was tested at different times with an equivalent prior sleep debt, noise improved speed of response at 0500 but not at 0800 at which variability of response time increased. Noise had no effect on errors. It is suggested that the effect of noise depends on the underlying arousal and raises arousal from its low level due either to time of day or to partial sleep deprivation.