Cognitive hyperarousal, resulting in enhanced cognitive activation, has been cited as an important contributor to the development and preservation of insomnia. To further understand this process, our study examined the effects of acutely-induced pre-sleep cognitive hyperarousal on sleep onset processes in healthy volunteers. Following an adaptation night, 15 subjects slept two nights in our sleep laboratory: one reference night and another one with cognitive arousal induction, in a counterbalanced order. In the cognitive arousal condition, subjects worked through half an hour of cognitive tasks without interference of an emotional component prior to retiring to bed. Objective sleep onset latency was significantly prolonged in the cognitive arousal condition compared to the reference condition. Significantly more high frequency activity was recorded during the first and second deep-sleep period. Moreover, differences in heart rate and proximal temperature during and after sleep onset were observed in the nights after the cognitive induction. Pre-sleep cognitive activation successfully induced a significant cognitive load and activation in our subjects to influence subsequent sleep (onset) processes.
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