- The Dutch College of General Practitioners' (NHG) guideline 'Sleep problems and sleeping pills' provides recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of the most prevalent sleep problems and for the management of chronic users of sleeping pills.
- The preferred approach for sleeplessness is not to prescribe medication but to give information and behavioural advice. Practice assistants of the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care are also expected to be able to undertake this management.
- The GP may consider prescribing sleeping pills for a short period only in cases of severe insomnia with considerable distress.
- Chronic users of sleeping pillsshould be advised by the GP to stop using them or to reduce the dose gradually (controlled dose reduction).
- The GP may refer patients with suspected obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) to a pulmonary or ear, nose and throat specialist or neurologist for further diagnosis depending on the regional arrangements. The GP may then consider the cardiovascular risk factors commonly present with OSA.
- In patients with restless legs syndrome (RLS) who continue to experience major distress despite being given advice without the prescription of medication, the GP may consider prescribing a dopamine agonist.
Conflict of interest and financial support: none declared.