Chronic sleep restriction is common globally and has well documented negative effects on psychobehavioral and metabolic function. This review assesses research on the amount of sleep recovery needed to repair subjective sleepiness and lapses in psychomotor vigilance.
An exhaustive search of MEDLINE-Ovid, CINAHL, and Web of Science databases was performed in July 2016 using the keywords “sleep restriction” and “sleep recovery”. The referenced works of qualifying articles were assessed for previously unidentified sources. Inclusion criteria were published full text papers with a combination of sleep restriction and a recovery period, that assessed psychomotor vigilance and subjective sleepiness. The included articles were graded for quality following GRADE workgroup guidelines.
Four studies met inclusion criteria with GRADE scores ranging from very low to high for the 2 outcomes of psychomotor vigilance and subjective sleepiness. Two nights of 8-10 hours time-in-bed (TIB) is sufficient to return measures of subjective sleepiness to baseline. No study had follow up long enough to demonstrate a return to baseline level of psychomotor vigilance testing (PVT) function. PVT lapses decreased within 3 days of recovery sleep but persisted at an increased level from baseline.
Functional deficits persist beyond a subjective experience of sleepiness. The common sleep cycle of 5-7 days of restriction followed by 2-7 days of “catch-up” may be sufficient to repair subjective sleepiness and not other derangements of sleep restriction.
Keywords: Sleep restriction, sleep recovery, psychomotor vigilance testing, subjective sleepiness, Stanford Sleepiness Scale, Karolinska Sleepiness Scale, PVT, SSS, KSS.
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