Chronic sleep restriction greatly magnifies performance decrements immediately after awakening

Andrew W. McHill, Joseph T. Hull, Daniel A. Cohen, Wei Wang, Charles A. Czeisler, Elizabeth B. Klerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: Sleep inertia, subjectively experienced as grogginess felt upon awakening, causes cognitive performance impairments that can require up to 1.5 hr to dissipate. It is unknown, however, how chronic sleep restriction (CSR) influences the magnitude and duration of sleep inertia-related performance deficits. Methods: Twenty-six healthy participants were enrolled in one of two in-laboratory sleep restriction protocols (one 32 day randomized control and one 38 day protocol) that separated the influence of sleep and circadian effects on performance using different “day”-lengths (20 and 42.85 hr day-lengths, respectively). The sleep opportunity per 24 hr day was the equivalent of 5.6 hr for each CSR condition and 8 hr for the Control condition. Participant's performance and subjective sleepiness were assessed within ~2 min after electroencephalogram-verified awakening and every 10 min thereafter for 70 min to evaluate performance and subjective sleepiness during sleep inertia. Results: Performance within 2 min of awakening was ~10% worse in CSR conditions compared with Control and remained impaired across the dissipation of sleep inertia in the CSR conditions when compared with Control. These impairments in performance during sleep inertia occurred after only chronic exposure to sleep restriction and were even worse after awakenings during the biological nighttime. Interestingly, despite differences in objective performance, there were no significant differences between groups in subjective levels of sleepiness during sleep inertia. Conclusions: CSR worsens sleep inertia, especially for awakenings during the biological night. These findings are important for individuals needing to perform tasks quickly upon awakening, particularly those who obtain less than 6 hr of sleep on a nightly basis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberzsz032
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Circadian
  • Forced desynchrony
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Sleep inertia
  • Subjective sleepiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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