School of Psychological Science

Postgraduate Profiles

Bronwyn Milkins

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Determining the Role of Attentional Anomalies in Insomnia: Does Worry Matter?


Insomnia affects millions of Australians and is associated with cognitive impairment and daytime dysfunction. Even with use of psychologica or medicinal treatments for insomnia a large proportion of sufferers do not respond and relapse is common. How can we design more effective interventions for people who live with insomnia? One suggestion is that cognitive-based interventions have promise. To this end, I am interested whether the kind of information we pay attention to just before going to sleep contributes to insomnia. Patterns of attentional selectivity to sleep-related threatening information (e.g., unhelpful thoughts like, ‘if I don’t get 8 hours of sleep tonight, I will be a mess tomorrow!’) are thought to make an important contribution to insomnia, but research is yet to empirically demonstrate this link. I aim to determine the role of attentional bias in insomnia using novel attention assessment and retraining procedures. As well as determining the role of attentional bias in insomnia, the potential benefits of attention retraining procedures for alleviating poor sleep will be a key focus of my research.

Why my research is important

Given the limited long-term benefits of pharmacological interventions for insomnia there is a pressing need for accessible and effective cognitive-based interventions. Attentional bias is widely considered to be a central contributing factor to poor sleep, and this research will be the first to examine whether attentional bias causally contributes to insomnia. By enhancing our understanding of how attentional bias contributes to insomnia, researchers will be in an ideal position to design effective and easily-accessible interventions that enhance sleep in the long-term for people living with insomnia.


  • The University of Western Australia Top-up Scholarship, 2013-2016
  • University Postgraduate Award, 2013-2016


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Last updated:
Friday, 23 January, 2015 3:27 PM