Faculty Articles

Poor Sleep Quality is Associated with Increased Negativity Bias and Decreased Sustained Attention

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Journal of Sleep Research





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Poor sleep quality has been demonstrated to diminish cognitive performance, impair psychosocial functioning and alter the perception of stress. At present, however, there is little understanding of how sleep quality affects emotion processing. The aim of the present study was to determine the extent to which sleep quality, measured through the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index, influences affective symptoms as well as the interaction between stress and performance on an emotional memory test and sustained attention task. To that end, 154 undergraduate students (mean age: 21.27 years, standard deviation = 4.03) completed a series of measures, including the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index, the Sustained Attention to Response Task, an emotion picture recognition task and affective symptom questionnaires following either a control or physical stress manipulation, the cold pressor test. As sleep quality and psychosocial functioning differ among chronotypes, we also included chronotype and time of day as variables of interest to ensure that the effects of sleep quality on the emotional and non-emotional tasks were not attributed to these related factors. We found that poor sleep quality is related to greater depressive symptoms, anxiety and mood disturbances. While an overall relationship between global Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index score and emotion and attention measures was not supported, poor sleep quality, as an independent component, was associated with better memory for negative stimuli and a deficit in sustained attention to non-emotional stimuli. Importantly, these effects were not sensitive to stress, chronotype or time of day. Combined, these results suggest that individuals with poor sleep quality show an increase in affective symptomatology as well as a negative cognitive bias with a concomitant decrease in sustained attention to non-emotional stimuli.

© 2015 European Sleep Research Society.



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