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. 2018 Sep;60:13-21.
doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2018.02.005. Epub 2018 Feb 21.

Pre-sleep Arousal Can Be Associated With Efficient Processing of Sleep-Related Information


Pre-sleep Arousal Can Be Associated With Efficient Processing of Sleep-Related Information

Keisuke Takano et al. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. .


Background and objectives: Cognitive bias to sleep-related information is thought to be a core feature of sleep disturbances. The bias may enhance pre-sleep arousal, such as excessive worry about sleeplessness, which prevents people from initiating normal sleep onset. The present study focused on (a) attention bias toward sleep-related stimuli and (b) difficulty in updating working memory for sleep-related stimuli as two possible mechanisms underlying pre-sleep cognitive arousal.

Method: Participants (n = 61, a community sample) completed a dot-probe task (with sleep-related and matched control word stimuli) and a 1-back and 2-back task (with sleep-related and non-sleep-related pictorial stimuli).

Results: For the dot-probe task, the results showed no significant association between pre-sleep cognitive arousal and sleep-related attention bias. However, the results of the 2-back task suggest that pre-sleep arousal is associated with decreased interference by sleep-related stimuli in maintaining non-sleep-related information. That is, individuals with higher levels of pre-sleep arousal are more efficient at processing sleep-related materials.

Limitations: The non-clinical nature of the sample may limit the clinical implications of the findings.

Conclusions: Although the current results cannot be explained by the extant cognitive theories of insomnia, we offer an alternative explanation based on the idea of worry as mental habit: mental processes that occur frequently (e.g., repetitive thoughts about sleep) require less cognitive resource. Therefore, sleep-related information may be processed easily without consuming much cognitive effort.

Keywords: Arousal; Attention bias; Sleep; Working memory; Worry.

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