Gender and sleep disorders. Italian multicentric study and qualitative research

Genere e disturbi del sonno. Studio multicentrico e ricerca qualitativa nella popolazione italiana

C. Mencacci1, A. Ullo2, R. Larcan4, N. Orthmann3, F. Merzagora3, E. Aguglia2

1 Dipartimento Neuroscienze A.O. Fatebenefratelli Oftalmico, Milano; 2 U.O. P.I. Psichiatria, A.O.U. Policlinico Vittorio Emanuele, Catania - Facoltà di Scienze Psicologiche, Università di Messina; 3 O.N.Da Osservatorio Nazionale sulla salute della Donna, Milano; 4 Università di Messina, Facoltà di Scienze Psicologiche


Sleep disorders are a very common problem, yet often unrecognized, under diagnosed and improperly treated. For this reason, ONDa (National Observatory of Women’s Health) has done a preliminary research (quantitative investigation) designed to outline the issue in the population in terms of clinical and epidemiological studies. In the second research (qualitative investigation) was chosen to explore the problem in the female population with the aim of exploring the experience of women related to these disorders and the difficulties of access to treatments.


Quantitative investigation. Was conducted a multicenter study, through a questionnaire drawn up by a multidisciplinary group of experts (White Nights Group) and distributed to the population from general practitioners. The aim of the survey was to operate a clinical-diagnostic evaluation of sleep disorders. A total of 2896 cards were received, of which 2886 considered valid for statistical analysis, 60% of the sample were women. Qualitative investigation. Were organized three focus groups formed by eight participants, each group was representative of the reality of a geographic area and was formed according to the following criteria: female, aged between 35 and 60 years, history of sleep disorders, non-pharmacological treatment for these types of disorders.


Quantitative investigation. The investigation revealed a significant frequency of sleep disorders in the Italian population with a predominant involvement of women. 78.3% of the population questioned reported to not enjoy a restful sleep with following psycho-physical discomfort throughout the day after sleep. Insomnia has been identified as the real reason for the medical support request in 55.9% and in the 31.2% of cases appeared as result of other pathological conditions. In 66.4% of cases was suggested drug therapy mainly represented by short and ultra short biological half-life benzodiazepines in drops. Qualitative investigation. In general, sleep disorders are perceived as responsible for corrosion of the quality of patient’s lives, but in most cases women accept to live with the problem underestimating the consequences. Frequently there is not a specific diagnosis by a physician and patients recur to the use of self-made solutions because are afraid of potential side effects of the therapy. It comes to light the need for women to have more information, especially about the nature of these disorders and therapeutic alternatives related. Furthermore the patients necessitate a guarantee on the mode of action of drugs and the explanation of all the possible side effects in the short and long term.


Sleep disorders deserve more specific attention, in view of the dissemination of the phenomenon and relevant in terms of impact on quality of life and reduced productivity. Women are in higher danger because they have a natural vulnerability related to the hormonal changes that accompany them at all stages in their lives. At the end emerges the need of a guided management of the problem, which is essential for its correct classification, for the formulation of appropriate diagnosis and therefore for the adoption of the most adequate therapeutic solution.

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