The therapeutic potential of attentional bias modification training for insomnia: Study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

Umair Akram, Bronwyn Milkins, Antonia Ypsilanti, John Reidy, Lambros Lazuras, Jodie Stevenson, Lies Notebaert, Nicola L. Barclay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: The efficacy of attentional bias modification (ABM) as a treatment for anxiety and depression has been extensively studied with promising results. Despite some evidence of sleep-related attentional biases in insomnia, only a small number of studies, yielding mixed results, have examined the application of ABM in insomnia. This study specifically aims to determine whether ABM can reduce (i) the presence of an attentional bias for sleep-related threatening words; (ii) insomnia symptom severity; (iii) sleep onset latency; and (iv) pre-sleep cognitive arousal amongst individuals with insomnia compared to a non-treatment control group of individuals with insomnia. Methods/design: We propose a randomised controlled trial of 90 individuals from the general population who meet the criteria for Insomnia Disorder. Following an initial examination for the presence of a sleep-related attentional bias using the dot-probe paradigm, participants will be randomised to an online attentional bias modification training condition, or to a standard attentional bias task (non-treatment) control condition. Both conditions will be delivered online by a web platform. All participants allocated to the non-treatment control group will be offered ABM training once the study is complete. The primary outcome will be the attentional bias indices of vigilance and disengagement and self-reported insomnia symptoms, sleep onset latency and pre-sleep cognitive arousal. Attentional bias and insomnia symptoms will be assessed at baseline (day 1) and post-treatment (2 days after the final training session: day 9). Insomnia symptoms will be again assessed at follow-up (day 16). Secondary outcomes include examining whether sleep associated monitoring and worry are related to a sleep-related attentional bias in insomnia, and whether such reports reduce following ABM. All main analyses will be carried out on completion of follow-up assessments. The trial is supported by the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Politics at Sheffield Hallam University. Discussion: This study will extend the research base examining the efficacy of attentional bias modification for insomnia. Trial registration: ISRCTN (ISRCTN11643569, registered on 5 June 2018).

Original languageEnglish
Article number567
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2018


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