The ability to self-monitor cognitive performance during 60 h total sleep deprivation and following 2 nights recovery sleep

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We aimed to investigate whether self-monitoring of performance is altered during 60 h of total sleep deprivation, following 2 nights of recovery sleep, and by task difficulty and/or subjective sleepiness. Forty adults (22 females, aged 19–39 years) underwent a 5-day protocol, with a well-rested day, 66 h total sleep deprivation (last test session at 60 h), and 2 nights of 8 h recovery sleep. An arithmetic task (MATH) with three difficulty levels assessed working memory. The Psychomotor Vigilance Task assessed sustained attention. Arithmetic accuracy and Psychomotor Vigilance Task median reaction time measured objective performance. Subjective performance was measured with self-reported accuracy and speed. Objective–subjective differences assessed self-monitoring ability. The performance on both tasks declined during total sleep deprivation and improved following recovery. During total sleep deprivation, participants accurately self-monitored performance on the Psychomotor Vigilance Task; however, they overestimated cognitive deficits on MATH, self-reporting performance as worse than actually observed. Following recovery, participants overestimated the extent of performance improvement on the Psychomotor Vigilance Task. Task difficulty influenced self-monitoring ability, with greater overestimation of performance deficits during total sleep deprivation as difficulty increased. Subjective sleepiness predicted subjective performance ratings at several time points, only for the Psychomotor Vigilance Task. The ability to self-monitor performance was impaired during total sleep deprivation for working memory and after recovery sleep for the Psychomotor Vigilance Task, but was otherwise accurate. The development of self-monitoring strategies, assessing both subjective perceptions of performance and subjective sleepiness, within operational contexts may help reduce the consequences of sleep-related impairments.

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