Study objectives: Various aspects of human performance were assessed in children after sleep loss.
Participants: Sixteen children (7 males, 9 females) between the ages of 10 and 14 years.
Design and interventions: Children were randomly assigned to either a control (CTRL) group, with 11 hours in bed, or an experimental sleep restriction (SR) group, with 5 hours in bed, on a single night in the sleep laboratory.
Measurements: Both groups were evaluated the following day with a battery of performance and sleepiness measures. Psychomotor and cognitive performance tests were given during four 1-hour testing sessions at 2-hour intervals.
Results: A multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) documented shorter latencies for SR children than controls. Significant treatment differences were discovered in three of four variables of verbal creativity, including fluency, flexibility, and average indices. There were also group differences found on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), which may be indicative of difficulty learning new abstract concepts. Measures of rote performance and less-complex cognitive functions, including measures of memory and learning and figural creativity, did not show differences between groups, perhaps because motivation could overcome sleepiness-related impairment for these tasks.
Conclusions: Higher cognitive functions in children, such as verbal creativity and abstract thinking, are impaired after a single night of restricted sleep, even when routine performance is relatively maintained.