New approach for analyzing self-reporting of insomnia symptoms reveals a high rate of comorbid insomnia across a wide spectrum of chronic diseases

Sleep Med. 2015 Nov;16(11):1332-1341. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2015.07.024. Epub 2015 Aug 21.


Background: Insomnia is increasingly recognized to be comorbid with one or more medical conditions. This study used an online research platform to characterize insomnia across different mental and physical conditions.

Methods: A custom cross-sectional survey was fielded online to 31,208 users of the patient community PatientsLikeMe. The survey queried members on National Sleep Foundation-defined insomnia risk (waking up feeling unrefreshed, difficulty falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night, or waking too early).

Results: Complete results were obtained from 5256 patients with 11 comorbid conditions. Seventy-six percent of US-based respondents were at risk for insomnia. Patients who reported difficulty falling asleep were found to have nearly twice the odds of self-reporting insomnia (odds ratio [OR]: 1.84; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.5-2.1) when compared to those who do not have difficulty falling asleep, whereas those who reported waking during the night or waking up unrefreshed were no more likely (OR: 1.025 and 1.032, respectively) to report that they suffered from insomnia than those who did not experience these issues. Although insomnia was self-reported as severe or very severe across most conditions, few respondents had actually been diagnosed with insomnia by a physician. After adjustment for age and gender, there was an independent and strong effect of primary condition severity on insomnia risk, and those with severe epilepsy (0.93), depressive disorders (0.92), and fibromyalgia (0.92) occupied the highest risk probabilities.

Conclusions: The high rate of severity and frequency of insomnia across a multitude of mental and physical conditions reveals an opportunity for better disease management through enhanced insomnia awareness.

Keywords: Chronic medical comorbidities; Insomnia severity; Online patient platform; Sleep survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / epidemiology
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Psychotherapy
  • Self Report
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology