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Differences in Self-Reported Sleep Complaints in Elderly Persons Living in the Community Who Do or Do Not Take Sleep Medication [CME]

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59(3):137-144

Background: Sleep disorders and the use of sleep medication are major health issues. Since complaints about sleep disturbances are subjective phenomena, the aim of the present study was to investigate which sleep complaints and self-reported disturbances of sleep behavior are connected with the utilization of sleep medication.

Method: In the Berlin Aging Study, a random sample of 516 persons aged 70 to over 100 underwent extensive psychiatric and medical examinations including several medication assessments and a special interview on sleep complaints and sleep behavior.

Results: 19.1% of the elderly were taking some form of sleep medication. Univariate and discriminant analyses showed that neither self-reported duration of sleep time nor difficulties with sleeping through the night but complaints about difficulties initiating sleep and global complaints about disturbed sleep differentiated between those who do or do not take sleep medication.

Conclusion: Persons taking sleep medication nevertheless have a higher rate of sleep-related complaints than those who take no medication. Waking up in the night per se does not discriminate between drug users and controls. Instead, it is the inability to fall asleep or fall back into sleep after waking and global discontent with subjective sleep quality that make a difference.