Towards an affective information-processing theory of sleep onset and insomnia

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Beaudoin, L. P., Hyniewska, Sylwia, & Bastien, C. (2017). Towards an affective information-processing theory of sleep onset and insomnia. (Paper to be presented at ISRE-2017).

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We develop a cognitive-affective theory of sleep onset and insomnia (Beaudoin, 2013, 2014). This somnolent information processing theory is design-based (Artificial Intelligence-inspired). We argue that the two-process model of sleep (Borbély, 1982, 2016) is necessary, but insufficient because it ignores pro-somnolent and insomnolent factors, including affective ones. We argue that the phylogenesis of the human sleep-onset control system (SOCS) faced the design challenge of integrating information from deliberative and reflective (executive) processes and various types of emotion. The core SOCS being evolutionarily ancient and modular, it cannot decode executive information; and executive processes couldn’t fully control lower sleep onset mechanisms. Yet some mutual indirect interactions were required. 

Our theory extends and applies the H-CogAff theory of emotions (Sloman, 2003, 2008), while adding sleep onset control mechanisms. We propose that the human SOCS is coarsely sensitive to primary emotions (based on alarms), secondary emotions (involving deliberative, motive management processes), tertiary emotions (perturbance, involving reflective, meta-management processes), moods (Thayer, 2003), interrupt filtering, attributes of motivators currently being managed or suppressed (Beaudoin, 1994), sense-making, and other processes, all of which operate in parallel with each other. Insomnia often involves perturbance, a loss of control of attention.

We will use limerence (Tennov, 1979) and grief (Wright, Sloman, Beaudoin, 1996) as examples of perturbant emotions and other affects that can disrupt sleep. We will discuss how new information processing treatments for insomnia that can be supported by mobile apps like mySleepButton®, such as serial diverse imagining (a form of cognitive shuffling, Beaudoin, Digdon, O’Neill, & Racour, 2016), personalized body scans, massage and other treatments might differentially affect the somnolent mechanisms we propose. We will present some of the new questions, from empirical and designer perspectives, that our theory raises about affect, mental architecture, sleep-onset and insomnia.

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