High prevalence of insomnia and hypnotic use in patients visiting their general practitioner

Fam Pract. 2017 Feb;34(1):20-24. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmw107. Epub 2016 Oct 27.


Background: Sleep problems are common in the general population, but there are few prevalence studies among patients visiting their GP. Since sleep problems frequently co-occur with existing psychological and somatic conditions, the prevalence is likely to be higher in patients visiting their GPs compared to the prevalence in the general population.

Objectives: To estimate the prevalence of insomnia [based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental disorders (DSM)-version IV] and hypnotic use among patients in general practice and to evaluate whether the prevalence depended on sex and age.

Methods: Questionnaire data were collected by 66 medical students while deployed in different general practices during their last year of school. A total of 1346 (response rate 74%) consecutive and unselected patients visiting their GPs answered the validated Bergen Insomnia Scale (BIS) and single questions on self-reported sleep problems and hypnotic use.

Results: The prevalence of insomnia according to BIS was 53.6%. Sleep problems (based on the single question) were self-reported by 55.8%, with 18.0% reporting to experience sleep problems a lot/very much. Hypnotic use was reported by 16.2% (daily use by 5.5%). Insomnia and hypnotic use were all more prevalent in females compared with males. Hypnotic use increased with age, whereas the prevalence of insomnia was highest in the younger age groups.

Conclusions: Insomnia and hypnotic use were very prevalent among patients visiting their GPs. As insomnia can be effectively treated, we maintain that the diagnosis has a high pay-off and should earn greater awareness in GP's diagnostic evaluation and management.

Keywords: GP; family practice; general practice; insomnia; sleep..

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • General Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Self Report
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives