Selective attention to sleep in heavy and light social drinkers

Heather Woods, Christopher-James Harvey, Jason Ellis, Stephany Biello, Colin Espie

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Introduction: Espie et al. (2006) propose a route into primary psychophysiological insomnia (PI) along the attention-intention-effort pathway which focuses on the inhibition of sleep-wake automaticity. A contributing factor to this is selective attention to sleep (alongside explicit intention to sleep and effort in the sleep engagement process). Previous research has established selective attention to sleep in PI by demonstrating altered attentional processing of sleep stimuli in PI compared to normal sleepers. With alcohol dependent individuals, who have also developed insomnia, having a 60% relapse rate compared to 30% in those without insomnia (Brower et al. 2001), understanding sleep in this population is relevant to both alcohol dependence research as well as research into development and maintenance of insomnia. Method: An ICB flicker paradigm was employed to investigate whether selective attention to sleep was present along the alcohol consumption spectrum. A between subjects design was used to analyse responses of heavy (more than 20 units per week) and light (less than 10 units per week) social drinkers obtained from a computer task presenting images of sleep salient, alcohol salient and neutral images. Results: We found a significant effect of stimulus type (sleep, alcohol or neutral) but no main effect of alcohol consumption (heavy or light). A significant interaction was found between sleep (poor or normal) and alcohol consumption. On further analysis, it was found that those poor sleepers who consumed higher levels of alcohol were significantly faster at identifying the sleep salient stimulus compared to poor sleepers who consumed lower amounts of alcohol. Conclusion: This study suggests that poor sleepers who consume higher amounts of alcohol show an attentional bias towards sleep compared to normal sleepers, irrespective of alcohol consumption level, and poor sleepers who consume lower levels of alcohol. Further research is called for to understand the underlying mechanism behind the selective attention in this particular group and whether this effect is mediated by the individuals’ relationship with alcohol or sleep profile.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2008
Event18th European Sleep Research Society Congress - Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
Duration: 12 Sept 200616 Sept 2006


Conference18th European Sleep Research Society Congress
Internet address


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