New research published in the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health shows patients belonging to racial minority groups are significantly less likely to be prescribed an insomnia medication than white patients, after accounting for sociodemographic and clinical factors.

The retrospective cohort study analyzed 9,557 patients (81.3% of whom were white, 13.5% Black, 2.5% other race, and 2.6% unknown race) who were diagnosed with insomnia from 2011 to 2019. About 6.2% of Black and 8% of other race patients received an order for a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved insomnia medication after diagnosis compared with 13.5% of White patients. 

Black patients were significantly less likely to have an order for an FDA-approved insomnia medication at all timepoints, and patients reporting “other” race were less likely to have received an order at two, three, and four years of follow-up. 

“Insomnia is incredibly common, but unfortunately its burden often falls disproportionately on minority groups. Our findings suggest that these vulnerable groups are also less likely to be prescribed insomnia medications, highlighting the need for further research on disparities in sleep care and the factors that influence clinician decision-making,” says Emma Holler, the primary author of this work, in a press release.

According to the study, further research should determine the extent to which patient preferences and physician perceptions affect these prescribing patterns and investigate potential disparities in nonpharmacologic treatment.

“Prescribing providers should be aware of these disparities and encouraged to ensure equity in their practice,” says Temitayo Oyegbile-Chidi, MD, PhD, National Sleep Foundation board chair, in a press release. 

Read the National Sleep Foundation’s position statement on sleep health equity here

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