Background: Insomnia is common in hospitalized patients, who become significantly vulnerable to the adverse effects of the benzodiazepines (BZDs) used to treat this condition. Consequently, there has been a logical search for non-drug alternatives (NDAs) for the treatment of insomnia.
Method: Inpatient insomnia cases were surveyed over the Summer of 1999. Our hypotheses were that an attitudinal difference exists between acute and chronic users of BZDs towards NDAs; and that inpatients who were prescribed BZDs have also received proper information about alternative therapies.
Results: One hundred insomnia cases met the inclusion criteria. Fifty-one per cent were younger than age 65. Short acting BZDs were used in 88% of the cases. Fourty per cent of patients had started experiencing insomnia while in the hospital. Only 11% of patients received information about NDA therapy for insomnia. Eighty-two patients felt that NDAs were healthier, and the majority (n=67) responded that if an NDA were offered in the hospital, they would be willing to accept it. Female participants were more willing to consider NDAs (P<0.01). First time users of BZDs were by far more receptive to NDA remedies than were chronic users of BZDs (P<0.002). A significant number of participants who were receiving short-acting BZDs were willing to try an NDA (P<0.001). Participants interested in NDA therapies expressed preferences for for massage therapy, sleep hygiene, music and relaxation techniques (P<0.001).
Conclusion: Significant attitudinal differences are seen in several domains of patient characteristics. First time female users of BZDs and those taking short acting BZD were more willing to try an NDA. Educational programs are needed for appropriate evidence-based management protocols for insomnia.