Sleep-related attention bias in older adults: Impact of insomnia symptoms and sex

2021 Focused Projects Grant for Junior Investigators

Ashley Curtis, PhD
University of Missouri

Key Project Outcomes

Increased attention to sleep-related stimuli, or “sleep-related attentional bias” is a commonly observed occurrence in insomnia that contributes to the persistence of insomnia symptoms. However, the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are poorly understood. For instance, there is a lack of understanding of whether this attention bias occurs only for visual stimuli (bed, clock) or whether it occurs more broadly, such as for auditory sleep stimuli (snoring, clock ticking). It is also unclear which sleep parameters specifically contribute to this cognitive mechanism. Further, although there are known sex differences in the prevalence of insomnia, with women showing higher prevalence of insomnia, sex differences in sleep-related attention biases have not been explored. In the present study, older adult men and women with and without insomnia disorder completed cognitive tasks (modified Posner Cueing and Dot Probe) and attentional bias to sleep and non-sleep visual and auditory stimuli were computed. Preliminary findings show that visual sleep-related attention bias in older adults with insomnia may be sex-dependent, with men more likely to experience this phenomenon. Auditory attentional bias in insomnia may not be sex-dependent and reflect general auditory cortex hypervigilance. The manuscript on these findings is currently in preparation.



Subjective and Objective Sleep in Older Adults: Does Cognitive Functioning Matter?

Sound vs. Sight: A Modality-Specific Preliminary Investigation of Sleep-Related Attentional Bias in Older Adults