Assisting Seniors With Insomnia: A Comprehensive Approach

Darrell Hulisz, RPh, PharmD; Christine Duff, PharmD Candidate


US Pharmacist. 2009;34(6):38-43. 

In This Article


Insomnia is a common but often underdiagnosed complaint in the elderly population.[1] It is defined as the inability to obtain sleep of sufficient quality or quantity to feel refreshed the following morning.[2,3] Insomnia is characterized by difficulty initiating and/or maintaining sleep. More than 50% of geriatric patients have reported repeated difficulty falling and staying asleep, trouble waking, waking up too early, or needing to nap without feeling rested.[1] Changes in the amount and quality of sleep are associated with advancing age.[4]

It has been reported that up to 40% of people with insomnia use OTC products or alcohol to self-medicate.[5,6] Nearly $1 billion is spent annually in the United States on medications to improve sleep.[7] The total cost to American society associated with insomnia is estimated at $100 billion annually.[3] This includes indirect costs such as medical expenses, ramifications of accidents, reduced work productivity, and absenteeism. Because of their access to the general public and expertise in drug therapy, pharmacists are uniquely qualified to assist patients with insomnia. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to equip pharmacists to educate patients on the causes and treatment of insomnia; review basic principles of good sleep hygiene; and discuss the use of OTC sleep aids, dietary supplements, and prescription medications for insomnia.


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