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Insomnia patients often denied sleep treatment when they have mental health conditions
Date:2/4/2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio Patients with insomnia who are diagnosed with accompanying mental health ailments often are not prescribed medication that will help them sleep which could then make related anxiety or depression worse, new research suggests.

Scientists examining treatment patterns for insomniacs say that their findings suggest that many doctors appear to be reluctant to prescribe sleep aids, even those that pose no risk of dependence, if patients also have depression, anxiety or mood disorders. An exception is psychiatrists, who were found to be twice as likely as primary care physicians to prescribe medication for insomnia.

Insomnia can cause you to have anxiety and depression, and depression and anxiety can cause you to have insomnia. Its a chicken-and-egg type of story. But research has shown that if one of the conditions is left untreated it can exacerbate the other condition, said senior study author Rajesh Balkrishnan, the Merrell Dow professor of pharmacy at Ohio State University.

What this calls for is specific guidelines related to the treatment of insomnia that takes into consideration these different types of patients, because insomnia has become such a big public health problem.

An estimated 20 percent of Americans have occasional sleep problems, with about one in 10 suffering from chronic insomnia.

Balkrishnan acknowledges concerns that physicians might have about prescribing certain medications that can cause dependence, especially to patients with mental health disorders. Older sleep aids, a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, are muscle relaxants with addictive properties and high potential for abuse. However, since the early 1990s, a new class of drugs for insomnia called non-benzodiazepines has been on the market. They are effective sleep aids that dont carry the risk of addiction, Balkrishnan said, and for that reason, patients should have ready access to these medications.

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Contact: Rajesh Balkrishnan
Balkrishnan.1@osu.edu
614-292-6415
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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