Chronic sleep restriction (CSR) has been associated with adverse effects including cognitive impairment and increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Yet, sleep restriction therapy is an essential component of most behavioral treatments for insomnia. Moreover, little is known about the impact of CSR on sleep continuity and structure in healthy people whose need for sleep is satiated. We investigated the impact of CSR on sleep continuity and structure in 9 healthy participants. They had 4 nights of sleep extension, 2 nights of post-extension sleep, 21 nights of CSR (5/5.6-hour time-in-bed), and 9 nights of recovery sleep. Compared to post-extension sleep, during CSR sleep duration was reduced by 95.4±21.2 minutes per night, Slow-Wave Activity was significantly increased, and sleep was more consolidated. During recovery, sleep duration was increased by 103.3±23.8 minutes compared to CSR, and the CSR-induced increase in Slow-Wave Activity persisted, particularly after the 5-hour exposure. Yet, we found that sustained vigilant attention was not fully recovered even after nine nights of recovery sleep. Our results suggest that CSR improves traditional metrics of sleep quality and may have a persistent impact on sleep depth, which is consistent with the reported benefits on sleep continuity and structure of sleep restriction therapy. However, these improvements in traditional metrics of sleep quality were associated with deterioration rather than improvement in neurobehavioral performance, demonstrating that sleep duration should be included in assessments of sleep quality. These results have implications for the long-term use of sleep restriction in the behavioral treatment of insomnia.
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