Systematic review of the efficacy of commonly prescribed pharmacological treatments for primary treatment of sleep disturbance in patients with diagnosed autoimmune disease

Amy C. Reynolds, Nathaniel S. Marshall, Catherine L. Hill, Robert Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Sleep disturbances are commonly reported by patients with autoimmune disease, and are negatively related to both disease activity and quality of life. Despite the potential for sleep disturbance to exacerbate inflammatory pathways, acute management of sleep disturbance with pharmacological aids is not well understood in this patient group. The objective of this review was to determine the efficacy of pharmacological treatments for sleep disturbance to improve sleep outcomes in adult patients with diagnosed autoimmune disease. Four databases and grey literature were searched for randomized controlled trials which used a pharmacological treatment specifically to treat sleep disturbance in patients with diagnosed autoimmune disease, both in hospitalized and non-hospitalized settings. A sleep outcome was required to be the primary endpoint of the study. Of the 409 studies identified, a total of six were included in the systematic review. Risk of bias across the studies was largely unclear, making an assessment challenging; meta-analysis was not undertaken due to clinical and methodological heterogeneity between studies. While there appeared to be perceived improvement in self-reported sleep quantity and quality in existing studies with pharmacological treatment, there was also evidence of placebo effect on some measures. Relatively small numbers of patients have undergone gold-standard polysomnographic (PSG) recording of sleep which limits our knowledge of objectively determined sleep quantity and quality in patients with autoimmune disease receiving pharmacological treatment for sleep disturbance. Presently there is insufficient evidence to determine whether pharmacological treatment of sleep disturbance is beneficial for improving sleep quantity and quality in this patient group beyond rheumatoid arthritis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101232
JournalSleep Medicine Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoimmune
  • Inflammatory
  • Insomnia
  • Pharmacology
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sleep
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sleep disturbance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)

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