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Chronic insomnia is associated with subjective daytime cognitive dysfunction, but objective corroborative data are often lacking. In this study, we use Perceptual Load Theory to objectively assess distractibility in participants with insomnia ( N = 23) compared with age- and sex-matched controls ( N = 23). Following overnight supervised sleep observation, all participants completed a selective attention task which varied in the level of perceptual load and distractor congruency. The insomnia group was found to be more distracted than controls, whereas their selective attention mechanism appeared to be intact, with reduced distractor processing under high load for both groups. Insomnia symptom severity was positively correlated with participant distractibility. These findings suggest that there are insomnia-related daytime cognitive impairments that are likely to arise from compromised cognitive control rather than an ineffective selective attention mechanism. This task may be clinically useful in assessing daytime impairments, and potentially treatment response, in those with insomnia.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Health Psychology


SAGE Publications

Publication Date





795 - 804