Physician and patient determinants of the treatment of sleep difficulties in United States outpatient settings

Rafia Sultana Rasu, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The prevalence of sleep difficulties among the patients seen in the primary care settings is about 30%. This problem increases with age and is more common among females than males. Variations are noticed in prescription choices for different patients with sleep difficulties. Many factors affect a physician's prescription decision while chosen from a wide array of available medications. Both pharmacological and behavioral therapies are available for the treatment of sleep difficulties. It is important to know the impact of use of different types of prescriptions on health outcomes related to sleep difficulties. Thus the knowledge of prescription patterns among different types of patients (e.g. age, gender, race, insurance type etc.) becomes important for determining a clinical guideline. This study is designed to assist in evidence-based policymaking on understanding the variations in physician prescriptions for sleep difficulties and reasons for such variations. A modified version of the model suggested by Eisenberg was used as a theoretical framework for this study to predict the factors influencing treatment of sleep difficulties. Multivariate logistic regression methods were used to analyze the 1996–2001 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data. This study found that increased age, female gender, white race, established patients, and mental comorbidity were associated with significantly increased likelihood for prescription of some type of therapy for sleep difficulties in US outpatient settings. Patients with private insurance were associated with lower likelihood of receipt of many therapies. Psychiatrists were more likely to prescribe some kind of treatment as well as more expensive therapies for sleep difficulty as compared to other physician specialties. HMO enrolled patient visits were more likely to be associated with receipt of behavioral therapy. This study also found that 32% of patients with sleep difficulties received no type of therapy during their visits. Only 5% of the patients received behavioral therapy only. Almost three-quarters of the patients receiving some kind of medication prescription were prescribed benzodiazepines. The study results also suggest a need for wider coverage of behavioral therapy by payers in US outpatient settings.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Rasu, Rafia Sultana, "Physician and patient determinants of the treatment of sleep difficulties in United States outpatient settings" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3182109.