We investigated whether interindividual attentional vulnerability moderates performance on domain-specific cognitive tasks during sleep restriction (SR) and subsequent recovery sleep. Fifteen healthy men (M ± SD, 22.3 ± 2.8 years) were exposed to three nights of baseline, five nights of 5-h time in bed SR, and two nights of recovery sleep. Participants completed tasks assessing working memory, visuospatial processing, and processing speed approximately every two hours during wake. Analyses examined performance across SR and recovery (linear predictor day or quadratic predictor day2) moderated by attentional vulnerability per participant (difference between mean psychomotor vigilance task lapses after the fifth SR night versus the last baseline night). For significant interactions between day/day2 and vulnerability, we investigated the effect of day/day2 at 1 SD below (less vulnerable level) and above (more vulnerable level) the mean of attentional vulnerability (N = 15 in all analyses). Working memory accuracy and speed on the Fractal 2-Back and visuospatial processing speed and efficiency on the Line Orientation Task improved across the entire study at the less vulnerable level (mean − 1SD) but not the more vulnerable level (mean + 1SD). Therefore, vulnerability to attentional lapses after SR is a marker of susceptibility to working memory and visuospatial processing impairment during SR and subsequent recovery.
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