Epidemiology of insomnia: prevalence, self-help treatments, consultations, and determinants of help-seeking behaviors

Sleep Med. 2006 Mar;7(2):123-30. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2005.08.008. Epub 2006 Feb 3.


Background and purpose: To estimate the prevalence of insomnia symptoms and syndrome in the general population, describe the types of self-help treatments and consultations initiated for insomnia, and examine help-seeking determinants.

Patients and methods: A randomly selected sample of 2001 French-speaking adults from the province of Quebec (Canada) responded to a telephone survey about sleep, insomnia, and its treatments.

Results: Of the total sample, 25.3% were dissatisfied with their sleep, 29.9% reported insomnia symptoms, and 9.5% met criteria for an insomnia syndrome. Thirteen percent of the respondents had consulted a healthcare provider specifically for insomnia in their lifetime, with general practitioners being the most frequently consulted. Daytime fatigue (48%), psychological distress (40%), and physical discomfort (22%) were the main determinants prompting individuals with insomnia to seek treatment. Of the total sample, 15% had used at least once herbal/dietary products to facilitate sleep and 11% had used prescribed sleep medications in the year preceding the survey. Other self-help strategies employed to facilitate sleep included reading, listening to music, and relaxation.

Conclusions: These findings confirm the high prevalence of insomnia in the general population. While few insomnia sufferers seek professional consultations, many individuals initiate self-help treatments, particularly when daytime impairments such as fatigue become more noticeable. Improved knowledge of the determinants of help-seeking behaviors could guide the development of effective public health prevention and intervention programs to promote healthy sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Prevalence
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Self-Help Groups*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology*