The Individual and Combined Effects of Exercise and Three Consecutive Nights of Sleep Restriction on Cognitive Performance

  • Juan Ignacio Badariotti

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis examined the individual and combined effects of three nights of partial sleep deprivation (PSD) and moderate intensity exercise (MIE), on executive function (EF) performance. Twelve healthy young adults (five females) [mean (SD), age: 23 (2) years; height: 170.8 (11.3) cm; mass: 66.2 (10.1) kg; body mass index 22.6 (2.2) kg⋅m-2; V􀈩O2max 42.1 (6.8) ml·min·kg-1] undertook four experimental trials, before and after a PSD and a control protocol, in a randomised control crossover design with a > 7-day wash out between interventions. EF performance was assessed at rest, and after 20-mins of MIE (~45 % V􀈩O2max) in each trial. A computer based 6-task battery was used to examine EF performance together with subjective sleepiness and mood. Cerebral oxygenation and cardiorespiratory variables were collected throughout, plasma samples were collected upon the completion of each battery and analysed for Cortisol. Data from the trials following the PSD and control protocols were analysed, and Throughput (response rate score which integrates accuracy and reaction time) was deemed the main variable for EF performance. An increase in Throughput scores was observed in all tasks after MIE in both the PSD and control conditions (all P < 0.05). The PSD protocol reduced the throughput scores of the 2-choice reaction time task at rest (Control: 150.3 (14.7) PSD: 143.6 (12.7); P = 0.02), but not any of the other tasks. Cerebral total haemoglobin, oxyhaemoglobin, and deoxyhaemoglobin increased after MIE in both sleep protocols (P < 0.05). Cortisol was significantly reduced following MIE (P = 0.011), but did not differ after PSD. Sleepiness increased with the PSD protocol at rest (P < 0.001) and returned to baseline values with MIE. PSD reduced perceived vigour and increased perceived fatigue, however both were reversed with MIE. These findings suggest that MIE acts as an EF performance facilitator regardless of sleep status.
Date of Award6 Jan 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorJoe Costello (Supervisor), Matt Miller-Dicks (Supervisor) & Thomas Williams (Supervisor)

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