Author(s): FortierBrochu E, BeaulieuBonneau S, Ivers H, Morin CM
OBJECTIVES: Individuals with insomnia consistently report difficulties pertaining to their cognitive functioning (e.g., memory, concentration). However, objective measurements of their performance on neuropsychological tests have produced inconsistent findings. This meta-analysis was conducted to provide a quantitative summary of evidence regarding the magnitude of differences between individuals with primary insomnia and normal sleepers on a broad range of neuropsychological measures. METHODS: Reference databases (PubMed, PsycInfo, Dissertation Abstracts International) were searched for studies comparing adults with primary insomnia to normal sleepers on neuropsychological measures. Dependent variables related to cognitive and psychomotor performance were extracted from each study. Variables were classified independently by two licensed neuropsychologists according to the main cognitive function being measured. Individual effect sizes (Cohen's d) were weighted by variability and combined for each cognitive function using a fixed effects model. Average effect sizes and their 95% confidence intervals were computed for each cognitive function. RESULTS: Twenty-four studies met inclusion criteria, for a total of 639 individuals with insomnia and 558 normal sleepers. Significant impairments (p<0.05) of small to moderate magnitude were found in individuals with insomnia for tasks assessing episodic memory (ES = -0.51), problem solving (ES = -0.42), manipulation in working memory (ES = -0.42), and retention in working memory (ES = -0.22). No significant group differences were observed for tasks assessing general cognitive function, perceptual and psychomotor processes, procedural learning, verbal functions, different dimensions of attention (alertness, complex reaction time, speed of information processing, selective attention, sustained attention/vigilance) and some aspects of executive functioning (verbal fluency, cognitive flexibility). CONCLUSION: Individuals with insomnia exhibit performance impairments for several cognitive functions, including working memory, episodic memory and some aspects of executive functioning. While the data suggests that these impairments are of small to moderate magnitude, further research using more ecologically valid measures and normative data are warranted to establish their clinical significance.