Use of second-generation antipsychotic agents for sleep and sedation: a provider survey

Sleep. 2013 Apr 1;36(4):597-600. doi: 10.5665/sleep.2554.


Objectives: Anecdotal evidence suggests that second-generation antipsychotic agents are increasingly used to treat sleep problems. This study sought to quantify the proportion of new prescriptions for second-generation antipsychotic agents started for sleep/sedation and the correlates of such use.

Design: A cross-sectional survey of provider decision making at the time second-generation antipsychotic agents were prescribed, documenting the reasons for the medication, patient demographics, psychiatric and medical diagnoses, patient health characteristics, and provider background.

Setting: A single Veterans Affairs Medical Center over a 20-month period.

Participants: Prescribers of second-generation antipsychotic agents.

Interventions: N/A.

Results: Seven hundred seven (32.2%) of 2,613 surveys indicated sleep/sedation was at least one reason for using a second-generation anti-psychotic agent, whereas for 266 (12.1%) it was the only reason. Quetiapine was most frequently prescribed overall as well as for sleep/sedation (47.0% and 73.6% respectively). Second-generation antipsychotic agent use for sleep/sedation was unrelated to sociodemographic characteristics, least likely in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and most likely as a newly started second-generation antipsychotic agent.

Conclusion: Sleep/sedation is a common reason given for new prescriptions of second-generation antipsychotic agents. Quetiapine is most frequently used for this purpose. A greater understanding of why providers use second-generation antipsychotic agents rather than safer and less costly alternatives for sleep problems may advance the development of interventions to reduce adverse effects.

Keywords: Atypical antipsychotics; decision-making; hypnotic; off-label; pharmacoepidemiology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dibenzothiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys / methods
  • Health Care Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quetiapine Fumarate
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Dibenzothiazepines
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Quetiapine Fumarate