Trouble sleeping inside: a cross-sectional study of the prevalence and associated risk factors of insomnia in adult prison populations in England

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle



To investigate the prevalence of insomnia and identify associated demographic, clinical and forensic risk factors in adult prisoners in England.


A cross-sectional study of 237 prisoners aged 18–72 years, across two male prisons and one female prison in North England. We used the Sleep Condition Indicator to measure probable DSM-V insomnia disorder (ID) and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index to examine sleep quality. Multiple demographic, sleep, clinical and forensic self-reported measures were recorded to identify any associations with insomnia.


Overall, the prevalence of possible DSM-V ID was 61.6% (95% CI, 55.5%–67.8%). Subjective poor sleep quality was reported by 88.2% (95% CI, 84.1%–92.3%). Seven in ten (70.6%) female prisoners had possible DSM-V ID (95% CI, 64.8%–76.4%). Multivariable logistic regression analysis, adjusting for gender and age, indicated odds of having possible ID in prison were increased for the following factors: history of physical ill-health (OR = 3.62, 95% CI, 1.31–9.98); suicidality (OR = 2.79, 95% CI,, previously asked for help for insomnia (OR = 2.58, 95% CI, 1.21–5.47), depression (OR = 2.06, 95% CI 1.31–3.24), greater endorsement of dysfunctional beliefs about sleep (OR = 1.50, 95% CI, 1.21–1.87), poor sleep hygiene (OR = 1.11, 95% CI, 1.04–1.19), and problematic prison environment (eg, noise, light or temperature) (OR = 1.07, 95% CI, 1.02–1.12).


For the first time we have established the prevalence and associated factors of insomnia in a large sample of adult English prisoners. ID and poor sleep quality are common, especially in female prisoners. These findings emphasize/amplify the need for dedicated treatment pathways to improve screening, assessment and treatment of insomnia in prison.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-136
JournalSleep Medicine
Early online date16 Jan 2017
StatePublished - Apr 2017