We systematically examined the temporal relationships between subjective sleepiness and both physiological drowsiness and performance impairment in a controlled laboratory setting. Eighteen healthy young adults (8 women; MAGE = 21.44 ± 3.24 years) underwent 40 hr of extended wakefulness, completing a bihourly Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS) and 10-min Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT). Microsleeps and slow eye movements (SEMs) were scored during the PVT. KSS scores increased 3 hr prior to performance impairment (p <.001) and 4–6 hr prior to physiological sleepiness (p <.001). There were strong within-subject correlations between KSS and PVT lapses (r = 0.75, p <.001) and physiological drowsiness (r > 0.60, p <.001). Between-subjects product-moment correlations were more modest but showed a significant positive increase across time awake, suggesting that subjective sleepiness and objective outcomes were more tightly correlated after sleep loss. Cross-correlations showed significant positive correlations at 0-lag (p <.034); however, a high proportion of participants showed maximal correlations at positive lags, suggesting KSS was associated with future objective impairment. Within individuals, subjective sleepiness was highly correlated with objective impairment, between-subject correlations were more modest, possibly due to interindividual vulnerability to sleep loss. These results suggest that subjective sleepiness represents an inbuilt early warning system for subsequent drowsiness and performance impairment.
- individual differences
- sleep deprivation