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Acceptability of Medication and Nonmedication Treatment for Insomnia Among Female Veterans: Effects of Age, Insomnia Severity, and Psychiatric Symptoms



Female veterans are at high risk for sleep problems, and there is a need to provide effective treatment for this population who experience insomnia. This study's primary goal was to compare the acceptability of medication versus nonmedication treatments for insomnia among female veterans. In addition, we examined the role of patient age, severity of sleep disturbance, and psychiatric symptoms on acceptability of each treatment approach and on the differences in acceptability between these approaches.


A large nationwide postal survey was sent to a random sample of 4000 female veterans who had received health care at a Veterans Administration (VA) facility in the previous 6 months (May 29, 2012-November 28, 2012). A total of 1559 completed surveys were returned. Survey items used for the current analyses included: demographic characteristics, sleep quality, psychiatric symptoms, military service experience, and acceptability of medication and nonmedication treatments for insomnia. For analysis, only ratings of "very acceptable" were used to indicate an interest in the treatment approach (vs ratings of "not at all acceptable," "a little acceptable," "somewhat acceptable," and "no opinion/don׳t know").


In the final sample of 1538 women with complete data, 57.7% rated nonmedication treatment as very acceptable while only 33.5% rated medication treatment as very acceptable. This difference was statistically significant for the group as a whole and when examining subgroups of patients based on age, sleep quality, psychiatric symptoms, and military experience. The percentage of respondents rating medication treatment as very acceptable was higher for women who were younger, had more severe sleep disturbances, had more psychiatric symptoms, who were not combat exposed, and who had experienced military sexual trauma. By contrast, the percentage of respondents rating nonmedication treatment as very acceptable differed only by age (younger women were more likely to find nonmedication treatment acceptable) and difficulty falling asleep.


Female veterans are more likely to find nonmedication insomnia treatment acceptable compared with medication treatment. Thus, it is important to match these patients with effective behavioral interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. Efforts to educate providers about these preferences and about the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia may serve to connect female veterans who have insomnia to the treatment they prefer. These findings also suggest that older female veterans may be less likely to find either approach as acceptable as their younger counterparts.

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