College of Psychology: Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches and Lectures


The Psychological and Physiological Implications of Sleep Restriction: A Comparison of Voluntary and Experimental Sleep Restriction Groups

Event Location / Date(s)

Boston, Massachusetts

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name / Publication Title

31st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS)


Introduction: Sleep restriction (SR) has profound adverse effects on health and wellbeing; however, it isn’t clear if there are differential effects of chronic and voluntary SR vs. short-term and involuntary SR. In order to examine this possibility, we tested the extent to which psychological and physical health measures were influenced by a group of participants who voluntarily restricted their sleep (VSR) relative to participants who underwent 7 days of experimental SR (ESR). We tested a female-specific population since sleep complaints in women are particularly associated with impaired psychological functioning.

Methods: Participants underwent a psychiatric interview in order to screen for psychopathology and existing sleep disorders. Upon study enrollment, sleep group categorization (ESR vs. VSR) was confirmed through sleep diary and actigraphy monitoring for 1 week. The VSR group slept less than 7 hours per night (actigraphy-verified) and ESR group was asked to sleep 90 minutes less than their average sleep time (actigraphy-verified). Participants in both groups completed clinical health measures and provided saliva samples for the quantification of IL-1β, IL-6, and cortisol.

Results: Preliminary results suggest that ESR results in decreased psychological health including perceived stress (PSS: BL mean = 16.8, day 7 = 18.2), moodiness (POMS: BL mean = 0, day 7 = 26.6), and state anxiety (STAI: BL mean = 34.2, day 7 = 44.8). In addition, relative to baseline, measures of inflammation were increased with ESR (IL-6: BL mean = 18.98 pg/mL, day 7 = 41.83 pg/mL and IL-1β BL mean 38.06 pg/mL, day 7 = 87.76 pg/mL). Comparing VSR to ESR, we found that the ESR group reported worse psychological health and higher inflammation markers (IL-6 VSR mean = 15.70 pg/mL and ESR day 7 mean = 41.6 and IL-1β VSR mean = 32.10 pg/mL ESR day 7 mean = 87.76 pg/mL).

Conclusion: We find that, consistent with previous reports, involuntary experimental SR (ESR) results in decreases in self-reported psychological health and increases in measures of inflammation. New to our study, we show that relative to people who voluntarily restrict their sleep (VSR), the psychological and physiological effects of ESR are more pronounced.