Most people operate contests in what would be considered a “casual” manner. They operate on Friday night, or Sunday afternoon, or devote a day of the weekend to work some of the deserving.
Or, if the rules say an operator can operate only 36 of the 48 hours of the contest, then six hours of sleep a night might not be such a bad thing.
Sleep, in these operating modes, doesn’t much come into play.
But, if you are serious about working a contest and want to go full bore for the vast majority of the contest, sleep is a big issue. Because we should have so much of it.
There is remarkably little literature on what can be done about sleep during a contest. Even less about the effects of the lack of sleep on how you operate. But there are some resources out there.
K5ZD carefully looks at sleep basics, the first 24-hours of the contest, the second 24-hours, and even more tips after that.
Every person’s pattern will be different. But this article gives you a great jumping off point for the serious contest operation.