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Keywords:

  • acute total sleep deprivation;
  • cognitive control;
  • food intake;
  • impulsive;
  • inhibition;
  • selective attention;
  • shift work

Objective

To investigate whether acute total sleep deprivation (TSD) leads to decreased cognitive control when food cues are presented during a task requiring active attention, by assessing the ability to cognitively inhibit prepotent responses.

Methods

Fourteen males participated in the study on two separate occasions in a randomized, crossover within-subject design: one night of TSD versus normal sleep (8.5 hours). Following each nighttime intervention, hunger ratings and morning fasting plasma glucose concentrations were assessed before performing a go/no-go task.

Results

Following TSD, participants made significantly more commission errors when they were presented “no-go” food words in the go/no-go task, as compared with their performance following sleep (+56%; P<0.05). In contrast, response time and omission errors to “go” non-food words did not differ between the conditions. Self-reported hunger after TSD was increased without changes in fasting plasma glucose. The increase in hunger did not correlate with the TSD-induced commission errors.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that TSD impairs cognitive control also in response to food stimuli in healthy young men. Whether such loss of inhibition or impulsiveness is food cue-specific as seen in obesity—thus providing a mechanism through which sleep disturbances may promote obesity development—warrants further investigation.