This study investigated the effects of variations in sleep pressure on cardiac autonomic activity and body temperature. In a counterbalanced design, 12 healthy, young subjects (6 men and 6 women) remained recumbent during 30 h of wakefulness (high sleep pressure) and 6 h of wakefulness (low sleep pressure). Both periods of wakefulness were immediately followed by a sleep opportunity, and the first 2 h of sleep were analyzed. During extended hours of wakefulness, a reduction in heart rate was mediated by a decline in cardiac sympathetic activity (measured via preejection period) and the maintenance of cardiac parasympathetic activity (measured via respiratory sinus arrhythmia). In subsequent high-pressure sleep, parasympathetic activity was amplified and sympathetic activity was negatively associated with electroencephalographic slow-wave activity. Sleep deprivation had no impact on foot temperature, but it did alter the pattern of change in core body temperature. A downregulation of cardiac autonomic activity during both extended hours of wakefulness and subsequent sleep may respectively provide “protection” and “recovery” from the temporal extension of cardiac demand.