Information processing bias in insomnia: research evidence and implications for therapy

C. A. Espie, L. Marchetti, H. Woods, L. M. Fleming, K. M. MacMahon

Research output: Contribution to journalConference Contributionpeer-review


Background: Several theoretical perspectives implicate cognitive processes in the aetiology and maintenance of insomnia. The Psychobiological Inhibition Model suggests that insomnia represents a violation of the ‘automaticity’ of normal good sleep, mediated by the development of a sleep-inhibiting Attention-Intention-Effort pathway (Espie et al. 2002; 2006). This paper summarises results from numerous experimental studies of such information-processing bias, including previously unpublished data. Methods: A series of studies employing Stroop, Dot Probe, Inducing Change Blindness and Modified Posner Paradigms. These are computerized tasks which index selective attention bias. Data are reported on insomnia relative to good sleepers and Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome controls, and also treatment outcome data following a randomized trial of CBT. Results: Findings show that people with insomnia identify sleep- related words and picture stimuli more quickly, that processing such information slows down responding to task instructions, that they are slower to disengage from such stimuli, and that CBT is associated with reduced selective attention bias. Conclusion: Information processing bias may help to account for the characteristic sleep preoccupation of the psychophysiological insomnia phenotype. Potentially behavioural as well as cognitive components of CBT could reduce this aetiological/maintaining factor.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberS76
Pages (from-to)87
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2008
Event19th Congress of the European Sleep Research Society - Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Sep 200813 Sep 2008
Conference number: 19th


  • insomnia
  • sleep deprivation
  • delayed sleep

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