Awareness of the consequences of sleep loss and its implications for public health and safety is increasing. Sleep loss has been shown to generally impair the entire spectrum of mental abilities, ranging from simple psychomotor performance to executive mental functions. Sleep loss may also impact metabolism in a manner that contributes to obesity and its attendant health consequences. Although objective measures of alertness and performance remain degraded, individuals subjectively habituate to chronic partial sleep loss (eg, sleep restriction), and recovery from this type of sleep loss is slow, factors that may help to explain the observation that many individuals in the general population are chronically sleep restricted. Individual differences in habitual sleep duration appear to be a trait-like characteristic that is determined by several factors, including genetic polymorphisms.