This research assessed the impact of one night of sleep deprivation on the amplitudes of NREM-sleep event-related potentials (NREM ERPs) and on the frequency of occurrence of related electroencephalogram activity including sleep spindles, arousals, K-complexes, and vertex sharp waves (VSWs). The NREM ERPs identified included P220, N350, P450, N550 and P900. During a pre-deprivation night, ten subjects took two 20-min naps separated by a 20-min break at their normal bedtime. Brief tones were presented at three intensity levels (60, 75 and 90 dB) with a 5-s interstimulus interval. Following these naps, subjects were kept awake until their normal bedtime the following day. At that time, they repeated the two-nap procedure. The ERPs obtained for each tone and wake/sleep state for pre- and post-deprivation conditions were analyzed using repeated measures statistical procedures. As anticipated, NREM ERP amplitudes recorded both pre- and post-deprivation increased with tone intensity and with approaching sleep. Also, sleep deprivation was associated with more rapid sleep onset, reduced arousability, and greater spindle production. While sleep deprivation had no effect on the amplitude of P220. Post-deprivation amplitudes of N350, N550 and P900 were greater, especially following the 90-dB tone. There was a corresponding increase in VSWs and K-complexes. These findings are inconsistent with the view that NREM ERPs reflect arousal. The underlying mechanism(s) may facilitate initiation and maintenance of sleep.
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