Time course of neurobehavioral alertness during extended wakefulness in morning- and evening-type healthy sleepers

Jacques Taillard, Pierre Philip, Bruno Claustrat, Aurore Capelli, Olivier Coste, Guillaume Chaumet, Patricia Sagaspe
Chronobiology International 2011, 28 (6): 520-7
The aim of the study was to evaluate the influence of chronotype (morning-type versus evening-type) living in a fixed sleep-wake schedule different from one's preferred sleep schedules on the time course of neurobehavioral performance during controlled extended wakefulness. The authors studied 9 morning-type and 9 evening-type healthy male subjects (21.4 ± 1.9 yrs). Before the experiment, all participants underwent a fixed sleep-wake schedule mimicking a regular working day (bedtime: 23:30 h; wake time: 07:30 h). Then, following two nights in the laboratory, both chronotypes underwent a 36-h constant routine, performing a cognitive test of sustained attention every hour. Core body temperature, salivary melatonin secretion, objective alertness (maintenance of wakefulness test), and subjective sleepiness (visual analog scale) were also assessed. Evening-types expressed a higher level of subjective sleepiness than morning types, whereas their objective levels of alertness were not different. Cognitive performance in the lapse domain remained stable during the normal waking day and then declined during the biological night, with a similar time course for both chronotypes. Evening types maintained optimal alertness (i.e., 10% fastest reaction time) throughout the night, whereas morning types did not. For both chronotypes, the circadian performance profile was correlated with the circadian subjective somnolence profile and was slightly phase-delayed with melatonin secretion. Circadian performance was less correlated with circadian core body temperature. Lapse domain was phase-delayed with body temperature (2-4 h), whereas optimal alertness was slightly phase-delayed with body temperature (1 h). These results indicate evening types living in a fixed sleep-wake schedule mimicking a regular working day (different from their preferred sleep schedules) express higher subjective sleepiness but can maintain the same level of objective alertness during a normal waking day as morning types. Furthermore, evening types were found to maintain optimal alertness throughout their nighttime, whereas morning types could not. The authors suggest that evening-type subjects have a higher voluntary engagement of wake-maintenance mechanisms during extended wakefulness due to adaptation of their sleep-wake schedule to social constraints.

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