Desperate for rest in a frenzied world, at least 8.6 million Americans take prescription sleeping pills to catch some Zzzs, according to the first federal health study to focus on actual use.
Between 2005 and 2010, about 4 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and older popped popular prescription drugs such as Lunesta and Ambien in the previous month, say government researchers who tracked 17,000 people to their homes and peered into their medicine cabinets.
About a quarter of those studied suffered sleep problems serious enough to report to their doctors, said Yinong Chong, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“They told us they had difficulty getting to sleep, or they were waking up and couldn’t get back to sleep,” said Chong, whose study is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The report provides the latest evidence that a good night’s sleep is becoming more elusive. In 2008, market research from Thomson Reuters found that sleeping pill prescriptions had tripled among people younger than 45. The new study offers the first look at how many people are actually taking them, Chong said.
A 2012 BMJ study found that people who took prescription sleeping pills were nearly five times as likely to die over 2½ years as those who didn’t.
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