Megan Brooks

June 12, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — The prevalence of insomnia is "extremely" high in female veterans in the United States, according to a new national survey that confirms and extends a prior study from a single Veterans Affairs (VA) center.

"Studies are needed to identify best practice models of care for this considerable segment of the women veteran population with insomnia disorders," the authors say.

Jennifer L. Martin, PhD, from the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, presented the findings here at SLEEP 2014, the 28th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

In an earlier study, she and her colleagues found rates of insomnia greater than 40% among female veterans who receive VA healthcare in 1 healthcare system. Their current study builds on this finding by looking at a nationwide sample of female veterans.

They used VA administrative data to identify female veterans who received VA healthcare within 6 months at any VA facility. They sent a survey on sleep to a random sample of 4000 of these women. A total of 1559 completed the survey (39%). Their mean age was 52 years.

Most women (94.6%) met criterion A (disturbed sleep) on the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD)-2 insomnia criteria, despite having adequate opportunity/circumstances for sleep (criterion B), the researchers say.

Of those, 97.1% reported daytime consequences of inadequate sleep (criterion C). And 91.5% of women meeting criteria A to C reported sleep problems lasting more than 3 months (criterion D).

Overall, nearly two thirds of women (65.1%) met all 4 criteria. The maximum predicted insomnia rate was at age 29 (67.5%).

"Important" Study

"Using a national sample and rigorous survey methodology, this study confirmed that the prevalence of insomnia among women veterans is extremely high," Dr. Martin and colleagues conclude.

"This abstract is important for several reasons," Barry Fields, MD, from the University of Pennsylvania and VA Medical Center in Philadelphia, who wasn't involved in the study, told Medscape Medical News.

"While previous work has shown high rates of insomnia in general veteran populations, female veterans are particularly underrepresented in the research literature," he explained.

"The authors not only surveyed a large group of woman about general insomnia, but also used language directly from the diagnostic manual to further characterize their disorder. In doing so, they shed further light on (1) the sheer prevalence of insomnia in this population and (2) ages when the disorder is particularly apparent," Dr. Fields added.

"The fact that most female veterans may have significant insomnia supports more widespread, robust treatment programs as a key component of their long-term care," he said.

The authors and Dr. Fields have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

SLEEP 2014: 28th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Poster Presentation 1007. Presented June 4, 2014.

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