Background. Sleep disturbances are common among older adults resulting in frequent sleep medication utilization, though these drugs are associated with a number of risks. We examine rates and predictors of new prescription sleep medications and sleep treatments, as well as sleep treatments without a doctor’s recommendation.
Methods. Participants were 8,417 adults aged 50 and older from two waves of the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study (HRS) who were not using a sleep medication or treatment at baseline (2006). Logistic regression analyses are run with sociodemographic, health, and mental health factors as predictors of three outcomes: new prescription medication use, sleep treatment use, and sleep treatment out of a doctor’s recommendation in 2010.
Results. New sleep medication prescriptions were started by 7.68%, 12.62% started using a new sleep treatment, and 31.93% were using the treatment outside of their doctor’s recommendation. Common predictors included greater severity of insomnia, worsening insomnia, older age, and use of psychiatric medications. New prescription medication use was also associated with poorer mental and physical health, whereas new sleep treatment was associated with being White, higher educated, and drinking less alcohol.
Conclusions. Starting a new prescription sleep medication may reflect poorer health and higher health care utilization, whereas beginning a sleep treatment may reflect an individual’s awareness of treatments and determination to treat their problem. Clinicians should be aware of predictors of new sleep medication and treatment users and discuss various forms of treatment or behavioral changes to help patients best manage sleep disturbance.