Two to three nights of recovery sleep usually restore a severely sleep-deprived individual to his or her natural sleep pattern.114 115
During the first night of recovery sleep after prolonged wakefulness, a “sleep rebound” occurs. Initially, most of the time is spent “catching up” on lost slow wave sleep (SWS); later, extra time is spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. With severe sleep deprivation, this REM sleep rebound may not occur until the second or third night of recovery sleep (it can take longer among those who regularly engage in shift work).
Recovery sleep still retains a 24-hour sleep-wake periodicity even after 10 days of severe sleep deprivation. In this pattern, sleep occurs for 12-15 hours, and wakefulness occurs for a few hours before the person goes back to sleep.116
114. Bonnet MH. Acute sleep deprivation. In: Kryger MH, Roth T, Dement WC, eds. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier and Saunders; 2011:54-66.
115. Kales A, Tan TL, Kollar EJ, et al. Sleep patterns following 205 hours of sleep deprivation. Psychosom Med. 1970;32:189-200.
116. Johnson LC, Slye ES, Dement WC. Electroencephalographic and autonomic activity during and after prolonged sleep deprivation. Psychosom Med. 1965;27:415-423.