ADHD, Insomnia and Perturbance?

A recent media release from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, “Is ADHD really a sleep problem? is currently reverberating on the web.

Scientists are proposing of a new theory which says that much of ADHD may in fact be a problem associated with lack of regular circadian sleep. […] “There is extensive research showing that people with ADHD also tend to exhibit sleep problems. What we are doing here is taking this association to the next logical step: pulling all the work together leads us to say that, based on existing evidence, it looks very much like ADHD and circadian problems are intertwined in the majority of patients.
We believe this because the day and night rhythm is disturbed, the timing of several physical processes is disturbed, not only of sleep, but also of temperature, movement patterns, timing of meals, and so on.
If you review the evidence, it looks more and more like ADHD and sleeplessness are 2 sides of the same physiological and mental coin”

We know that lack of sleep affects attention and key executive functions. Those functions are also impacted by fatigue and alcohol use.

That means that there is an interaction between sleep deprivation and attention/meta-management. When low-level attention and higher level (“meta-management”) executive functions are compromised, people will have difficulty controlling their bedtime thinking. At this point, they might fail to notice that they are deliberating. According to my Somnolent Information-Processing theory, deliberation itself suppresses the inclination to sleep (it is “insomnolent”). Moreover, according to this theory, such deliberation can increase the insistence of motivators, and this also delays sleep-onset (is “insomnolent”). (“Meta-management” is a responsibility of the “supervisory attentional system” posited by Norman Shallice. See Goal Processing in Autonomous Agents (PDF)).

There are several biological processes that regulate sleep and might play a special role in ADHD insomnia (e.g., sensitivity to light).

The cognitive shuffle is not meant to directly address biological factors. However, the cognitive shuffle is designed to affect a key attentional phenomenon that has not received enough attention in the psychology literature, namely “Perturbance”. (The concept was discovered in Artificial Intelligence research on emotion by Aaron Sloman. I have frequently discussed it, including in a blog post on CogZest a few days ago). Perturbance involves insistent mental content that vies for executive functions. According to the Somnolent Information-Processing theory, perturbance is “insomnolent” (interferes with sleep onset). The cognitive shuffle is meant to interfere with perturbance.

According to the Somnolent Information-Processing theory, the cognitive shuffle should be more effective than the other bedtime imagery-based cognitive treatment for insomnia, monotonous imagery distraction (e.g., as tested by Charles Morin).

Therefore, we intend to run empirical studies on ADHD and insomnia, pitting serial diverse imagining (the cognitive shuffle) against monotonous imagery training.

President, CogSci Apps Corp. Author, Cognitive Productivity

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