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Title: Associations between severity of insomnia, attentional control and negative thought intrusions in healthy volunteers
Author: Kenny, Louise Emma
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2012
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Recent research has found an association between insomnia and both negative affect and weakened attention control, yet despite this association and the high prevalence of sleep difficulties to be found in the general population, very little research has explored the association between these factors as a result of acute sleep loss in a healthy population. The literature review therefore explores the existing evidence base for relationships between poor sleep and both emotional and cognitive functioning, by drawing upon research pertinent to insomnia and anxiety disorder. The review concludes and supports an association between attentional control and reduced emotional regulation in poor sleep, with a particular significance of increased hyperarousal, reduced inhibition of negative schema and thought intrusions as a result of sleep loss. However, further studies are needed to clarify these relationships, particularly in healthy individuals experiencing transient, acute or chronic sleep disturbance. An improved understanding of these relationships is imperative for developing better recognition, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in the general population. Consistent with this suggestion, the empirical paper describes a study which examined whether specific components of acute sleep loss were associated with attentional deficits observed in anxiety; specifically a reduced ability to focus attention, and an increase in difficulties inhibiting negative thoughts. The study used a cross sectional research design involving 112 undergraduates, who all completed self-report measures of insomnia severity, trait anxiety, attentional control and cognitive failures. Participants also completed a 3-stage worry task, during which thoughts were sampled, including: an initial 5-minute breathing interval, a 5-minute worry period and a 5-minute post-worry breathing interval. Results found that increased insomnia severity, independent of anxiety, was significantly associated with increased deficits in attentional control and increased negative thought intrusions during a five-minute breathing focus period in a healthy population. Considering this impact of sleep loss, the findings recommend that a better awareness of sleep difficulties is established in both health professionals and in the general population, to enable earlier recognition and diagnosis, with the aim of preventing the development of more complex forms of insomnia and improving available treatment protocols.
Supervisor: Garner, Matthew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology