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STUDY OBJECTIVES: Although sleep-related attentional bias has been shown to be evident in primary insomnia, the association with objectively measured sleep has not been investigated. In the present study, we used polysomnography (PSG) to fill this void. DESIGN: Patients with primary insomnia and healthy controls were studied using a visual dot probe task (VDP) and an emotional Stroop task (EST). Additionally, polysomnography was carried out in a sub-sample (n = 22) of patients in the subsequent night. SETTING: Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University of Freiburg Medical Center. PARTICIPANTS: Thirty patients with primary insomnia and 30 matched healthy controls. INTERVENTIONS: N/A. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: Patients with primary insomnia demonstrated a significant sleep-related attentional bias compared to controls in the EST but no significant group effects were found for the VDP. VDP attentional bias scores were positively correlated with measures of sleep pressure, including total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and the amount of slow wave sleep. EST attentional bias scores were not correlated with subsequent PSG parameters, and we did not observe a correlation between attentional bias scores on the two tasks. CONCLUSIONS: The unexpected relationship between increased attentional bias, in the VDP task, and improved markers of sleep duration and continuity, may be indicative of a homeostatic craving for sleep in those with high attentional bias. This awaits further testing in multiple night studies, to shed light on the mechanisms and implications of sleep-related attentional bias.


Journal article



Publication Date





107 - 112


Adult, Aged, Attention, Color Perception, Cues, Discrimination (Psychology), Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Orientation, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Polysomnography, Reaction Time, Semantics, Sleep, Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders, Stroop Test, Young Adult