Cognitive processes in chronic insomnia: A role for perception, attention and thought?
Experimental psychopathologists have made significant advances over the last decade in understanding and treating many psychological disorders. These advances have largely been achieved by applying theories and methods from cognitive psychology to the identification of cognitive processes that contribute to the maintenance of the disorder. One common and debilitating disorder minimally scrutinised from a cognitive theoretical perspective is insomnia. Insomnia is a complex disorder of heterogeneous aetiology. It is the second most common psychological health problem and has serious consequences for the sufferer. In this talk I will argue that the maintenance of insomnia is best understood from a cognitive perspective. Specifically, it will be suggested that, regardless of the original trigger, chronic insomnia is maintained by a cascade of cognitive processes operating both at night and during the day. The cognitive processes implicated include selective attention and monitoring, distorted perception, worry, erroneous beliefs about sleep and counterproductive safety behaviours (including imagery control). Three experiments will be presented that provide support for the role of perception, attention and thought. The clinical implications of taking this approach will be discussed.