Insomnia and cognitive performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Sophie Wardle-Pinkston, Danica C. Slavish, Daniel J. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Cognitive performance has been extensively investigated in relation to insomnia, yet review of the literature reveals discrepant findings. The current study aimed to synthesize this literature with a systematic review and meta-analysis. 48 studies (k = 50 independent samples, n = 4539 total participants) met inclusion criteria. Omnibus meta-analysis revealed insomnia was associated with poorer overall cognitive performance (Hedge's g = −0.24, p < 0.001). Analyses by cognitive domain revealed insomnia was specifically associated with impairments in subjective cognitive performance (g = −0.35), and objective measures of perceptual function (g = −0.24), manipulation (g = −0.52) and retention/capacity in working memory (g = −0.30), complex attention (g = −0.36), alertness (g = −0.14), episodic memory (g = −0.29), and problem solving in executive functions (g = −0.39). Age, percent female, publication year, and insomnia measure did not consistently moderate findings. Approximately 44% of studies failed to use diagnostic criteria when categorizing insomnia and cognitive measures varied widely. This indicates a need for standardization of methods assessing insomnia and cognitive performance in research. Overall, findings from this meta-analysis indicate insomnia is associated with impairment in objective and subjective cognitive performance, highlighting the utility of treating insomnia to potentially improve cognitive outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101205
JournalSleep Medicine Reviews
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Cognitive performance
  • Insomnia
  • Meta-analysis
  • Standardization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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