Research & Outreach

Sleep and Performance Research Center

Managing fatigue in the 24/7 society

In today’s 24/7 society, there is an increasing need for people to be awake and at work at all hours of the day. Extended work hours and night and shift work compete with the biological need to sleep and with daily rhythms driven by the biological clock. Even small amounts of chronic sleep loss lead to increased sleepiness on the job, during the commute, and at home—jeopardizing productivity, safety, and well-being.

At Washington State University's Sleep and Performance Research Center, we study sleep and wakefulness in normal people—going about their everyday lives or sequestered in the laboratory—to answer critical questions about the effects of reduced and displaced sleep on cognitive performance and health. Our goal is to find out how these effects can be prevented or mitigated.

Browse our research publications.


World-class research facility

We conduct our human sleep and performance studies in a 10,000-square-foot research facility located on the WSU Spokane campus in Spokane. The facility includes two contiguous laboratories, a sleep research laboratory and a simulation laboratory. Together they form an integrated sleep/wake/work facility, the only one of its kind in the world.

The sleep research laboratory consists of a four-bedroom suite for in-residence studies, which accommodates carefully controlled experiments to study the effects of sleep and sleep loss on human cognitive functioning. The simulation laboratory is equipped to collect performance data in highly realistic simulated scenarios that may be encountered by police officers, military personnel, commercial drivers, and others who work in high-risk, 24/7 operations. 
See the facility.


Laboratory studies of sleep and performance

Our sleep research laboratory provides a highly controlled environment to investigate the sleep physiology and waking behavior of individuals on precisely timed sleep schedules. Ongoing studies focus on the effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance, ranging from simple reaction time to complex decision making.
Volunteer as a research participant.


Field studies for occupational sleep medicine

While laboratory studies provide fundamental knowledge about the biology regulating sleep and performance, field studies are needed to understand the effects of reduced and displaced sleep on cognitive functioning in the context of the work environment and everyday life. Ongoing studies focus on the effects of different flight durations and departure times on flight crew effectiveness in commercial aviation.
Review our field study capabilities.


Operational fatigue risk management

In safety-sensitive environments such as transportation and the military, fatigue from sleep loss puts people and operations at risk. When fatigue lines up with technical difficulties, environmental stressors and time pressure, the probability of errors and accidents increases dramatically. In order to avoid catastrophic errors, sleep needs to be managed like other vital resources such as food or fuel supplies—a process that is part of fatigue risk management. We are developing new strategies for fatigue risk management, taking into account the latest discoveries about sleep and performance from our group and from collaborators around the world.
Go to YouTube for a video about our research on operational fatigue risk management.


Modeling fatigue and performance

Fatigue risk management relies in part on anticipating a person’s cognitive performance deficits for a given sleep/wake/work schedule. This can be done with computer models that make quantitative predictions of performance capability over time. However, there are considerable inter-individual differences in how people respond to a particular schedule. We produced the first biomathematical model of sleep and performance that accounts for these inter-individual differences, and developed the first physiology-based model of performance impairment in people working extended hours and sleeping insufficiently.

WSU Spokane | PO Box 1495, Spokane WA 99210-1495 | 509-358-7500 | Contact Us