Sustained vigilance is negatively affected by mild and acute sleep loss reflected by reduced capacity for decision making, motor preparation, and execution
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© 2018 Sleep Research Society. Study Objectives The behavioral and cognitive consequences of severe sleep deprivation are well understood. Surprisingly, relatively little is known about the neural correlates of mild and acute sleep restriction on tasks that require sustained vigilance for prolonged periods of time during the day. Methods and Results Event-related potential (ERP) paradigms can reveal insight into the neural correlates underlying visual processing and behavioral responding that is impaired with reduced alertness, as a consequence of sleep loss. Here, we investigated the impact of reduced vigilance following at-home mild sleep restriction to better understand the associated behavioral consequences and changes in information processing revealed by ERPs. As expected, vigilance was reduced (e.g. increased lapses and response slowing) that increased over the course of the experiment in the "sleep restricted" (5 hr sleep) compared with the "sleep-extension" (9 hr sleep) condition. Corresponding to these lapses, we found decreased positivity of visually evoked potentials in the Sleep Restriction vs. Sleep Extension condition emerging from 316 to 449 ms, maximal over parietal/occipital cortex. We also investigated electrophysiological signs of motor-related processing by comparing lateralized readiness potentials (LRPs) and found reduced positivity of LRPs in the Sleep Restriction vs. Sleep Extension condition at 70-40 ms before, and 115-158 ms after a response was made. Conclusions These results suggest that even a single night of mild sleep restriction can negatively affect vigilance, reflected by reduced processing capacity for decision making, and dulls motor preparation and execution.