Qualitative studies of insomnia: Current state of knowledge in the field.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Sleep Med Rev, Volume 31, p.58-69 (2017)


<p>Despite its high prevalence and burden, insomnia is often trivialized, under-diagnosed, and under-treated in practice. Little information is available on the subjective experience and perceived consequences of insomnia, help-seeking behaviors, and treatment preferences. The use of qualitative approaches (e.g., ethnography, phenomenology, grounded theory) may help gain a better understanding of this sleep disorder. The present paper summarizes the evidence derived from insomnia studies using a qualitative research methodology (e.g., focus group, semi-structured interviews). A systematic review of the literature was conducted using PsycINFO and Medline databases. The review yielded 22 studies and the quality of the methodology of each of them was evaluated systematically using the critical appraisal skills programme (CASP) appraisal tool. Selected articles possess at least a very good methodological rigor and they were categorized according to their main focus: "Experience of insomnia", "Management of insomnia" and "Medicalization of insomnia". The main findings indicate that: 1) insomnia is often experienced as a 24-h problem and is perceived to affect several domains of life, 2) a sense of frustration and misunderstanding is very common among insomnia patients, which is possibly due to a mismatch between patients' and health care professionals' perspectives on insomnia and its treatment, 3) health care professionals pay more attention to sleep hygiene education and medication therapies and less to the patient's subjective experience of insomnia, and 4) health care professionals are often unaware of non-pharmacological interventions other than sleep hygiene education. An important implication of these findings is the need to develop new clinical measures with a broader scope on insomnia and more targeted treatments that take into account the patient's experience of insomnia. Greater use of qualitative approaches in future research may produce novel and more contextualized information leading to a more comprehensive understanding of insomnia.</p>

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