Alcohol and sleep restriction combined reduces vigilant attention, whereas sleep restriction alone enhances distractibility

James Lee, Jessica Manousakis, Joanne Fielding, Clare Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Study Objectives: Alcohol and sleep loss are leading causes of motor vehicle crashes, whereby attention failure is a core causal factor. Despite a plethora of data describing the effect of alcohol and sleep loss on vigilant attention, little is known about their effect on voluntary and involuntary visual attention processes. Design: Repeated-measures, counterbalanced design. Setting: Controlled laboratory setting. Participants: Sixteen young (18-27 y; M = 21.90 ? 0.60 y) healthy males. Interventions: Participants completed an attention test battery during the afternoon (13:00-14:00) under four counterbalanced conditions: (1) baseline; (2) alcohol (0.05 breath alcohol concentration); (3) sleep restriction (02:00-07:00); and (4) alcohol/sleep restriction combined. This test battery included a Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT) as a measure of vigilant attention, and two ocular motor tasks - visually guided and antisaccade - to measure the involuntary and voluntary allocation of visual attention. Measurements and Results: Only the combined condition led to reductions in vigilant attention characterized by slower mean reaction time, fastest 10 responses, and increased number of lapses (P <0.05) on the PVT. In addition, the combined condition led to a slowing in the voluntary allocation of attention as reflected by increased antisaccade latencies (P <0.05). Sleep restriction alone however increased both antisaccade inhibitory errors [45.8 errors versus <28.4 all others; P <0.001] and the involuntary allocation of attention, as reflected by faster visually guided latencies (177.7 msec versus > 185.0 msec all others) to a peripheral target (P <0.05). Conclusions: Our data reveal specific signatures for sleep related attention failure: the voluntary allocation of attention is impaired, whereas the involuntary allocation of attention is enhanced. This provides key evidence for the role of distraction in attention failure during sleep loss
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765 - 775
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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