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Sleep as a public health concern: insomnia and mental health

Dan Robotham (Senior Researcher, Mental Health Foundation, London, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 9 December 2011




This paper aims to outline the literature that situates sleep as a public health concern. In particular, it discusses the bi‐directional relationship between insomnia and mental health.


This paper reviews and presents the findings of other relevant research, relating the discussion to policy and practice.


Getting good quality sleep is essential, but insomnia is a huge problem and may be the most commonly reported mental health complaint in the UK. Mental health influences insomnia, and insomnia can lead to mental health problems. Sleep medication is a commonly prescribed treatment for insomnia, but evidence from robust research suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTI) is the most successful treatment for chronic insomnia.

Practical implications

GPs need evidence‐based information on the importance and benefits of sleep and to be able to recognise sleep problems in primary care. CBTI needs to be represented in NICE guidance for insomnia. CBT‐influenced methods could be implemented as low level interventions as part of a stepped care framework.


Reviewing the academic literature on sleep problems related to mental health reinforces the importance of sleep as a health issue, which can be assessed in primary care as appropriate.



Robotham, D. (2011), "Sleep as a public health concern: insomnia and mental health", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 234-237.



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