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General practitioners' preferences for managing insomnia and opportunities for reducing hypnotic prescribing


Professor A. Niroshan Siriwardena
Faculty of Health, Life & Social Sciences
University of Lincoln
Brayford Pool
Lincoln LN6 7TS


Rationale, aims and objectives  Insomnia and sleep problems are common with many sufferers seeking medical help from general practitioners (GPs) whose clinical response is limited, often involving prescription of hypnotic drugs. The case for improving the quality of care for patients with insomnia is compelling but there is little evidence about how better care could be achieved in a primary care setting. The aim of this study was to investigate GPs' management preferences for sleep problems and their awareness and perception of opportunities for improving care as well as reducing the use of benzodiazepines and Z drugs.

Methods  Cross-sectional survey of GPs using a self-administered postal questionnaire in 2005 to all GPs in West Lincolnshire Primary Care Trust Lincolnshire, UK.

Results  A total of 84 of 107 (78.5%) questionnaires sent to GP principals were returned after one reminder. Respondents favoured Z drugs over benzodiazepines for the majority of indications. Respondent attitudes to benzodiazepines and Z drugs were generally negative whereas they were positive towards initiatives to reduce hypnotic prescribing through personal guidance, awareness-raising strategies and organizational interventions.

Conclusions  GPs were negative in attitude towards hypnotics and positive towards reducing prescribing for sleep problems. They need to develop resources and better strategies for assessment and non-pharmacological management of patients presenting with insomnia for the first time as well as those on long-term hypnotics. The feasibility and effectiveness of psychosocial interventions tailored to patient and service needs in primary care setting should be evaluated systematically seeking to understand potential clinical benefits as well as potential undesirable effects of service changes.