The first cycle of sleep was studied in different situations: normal night sleep, naps, diurnal sleep after night shifts (3 x 8 shift workers). Results show two types of first cycle: some started with SWS (normal cycles), others with REM (sleep onset REM periods: SOREMPs). (1) Normal cycles: the length of SWS in the first cycle was positively correlated with prior wakefulness; conversely, the latency of SWS decreased as prior wakefulness increased; the decrease was due to the decrease in the length of the previous stage II or of the sleep onset latency (SOL). Length of sleep onset (SO) showed only few variations. The structure of the first cycle of shift workers' sleep probably reflects an important sleep loss. (2) SOREMPs occcurred during diurnal sleep. Some hypotheses about these cycles are discussed including REM 'pressures' (circadian, sleep loss) and inter-individual variations.