Sleep disturbance and sleeping medication use among older Australian women

Associate Professor Julie Byles, Dr Margaret Harris, Professor Kichu Nair, Dr Gita Mishra

Difficulty sleeping is common among older women and is associated with regular and long-term use of sleeping medications and consequent poor health outcomes such as reduced quality of life, falls and excessive health care use. This study was designed to provide a clear picture of the magnitude of this problem among older women in Australia, and to identify factors related to sleeping medication use. The project is part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, and involved a nested in-depth study of sleeping difficulty and sleeping medication use among a selected sub-sample of 1011 of these women. The women were aged 70-75 years at the start of the longitudinal study and 74-79 years at the time of the sub-study. The data from these studies provide insight into the nature of women's sleeping difficulty, the behaviours that women adopt to deal with this problem, and the associated health outcomes. Particularly they indicate clear differences in the help seeking behaviours, knowledge and attitudes of women who do and do not use sleeping medications, and provide a sound basis for health promotion messages and intervention strategies to reduce medication use among women in this age group.