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Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance

Authors Paula Alhola, Päivi Polo-Kantola

Published 15 November 2007 Volume 2007:3(5) Pages 553—567


Paula Alhola1, Päivi Polo-Kantola2

1Department of Psychology, 2Sleep Research Unit (Department of Physiology), University of Turku, Turku, Finland

Abstract: Today, prolonged wakefulness is a widespread phenomenon. Nevertheless, in the field of sleep and wakefulness, several unanswered questions remain. Prolonged wakefulness can be due to acute total sleep deprivation (SD) or to chronic partial sleep restriction. Although the latter is more common in everyday life, the effects of total SD have been examined more thoroughly. Both total and partial SD induce adverse changes in cognitive performance. First and foremost, total SD impairs attention and working memory, but it also affects other functions, such as long-term memory and decision-making. Partial SD is found to influence attention, especially vigilance. Studies on its effects on more demanding cognitive functions are lacking. Coping with SD depends on several factors, especially aging and gender. Also interindividual differences in responses are substantial. In addition to coping with SD, recovering from it also deserves attention. Cognitive recovery processes, although insufficiently studied, seem to be more demanding in partial sleep restriction than in total SD.

Keywords: Sleep deprivation, cognitive performance, sleep restriction, recovery, aging, gender differences

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