33% of U.S. adults take sleeping pills

November 22, 2017

America’s chronic insomnia is enriching pharmaceutical companies. In fact, according to a study conducted by BCC Research, Americans spent an estimated $41 billion on sleep aids and remedies—everything from ZzzQuill to Melatonin, to Ambien to Valium— back in 2015; and that number is expected to increase incrementally to $52 billion by 2020.

That’s not even counting the money that U.S. families spend on pillows, mattresses, white noise machines, and whatever else conceivably could work.

Now, researchers from the University of Michigan have found that 33% —one in three —adults in the United States uses medicine of some sort to help induce sleep.

What’s more, the researchers say, many U.S. adults do it without the knowledge of their doctors, according to new findings of a poll broadcast.

The poll was based on an online survey of 1,065 people, 65 to 80 years of age, nationally, who answered many questions, according to a report released in mid-November by the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan; along with sponsors AARP and U-M’s academic medical center Michigan Medicine.

Overall, 46% of respondents said they had problems sleeping once or more each week. Fifteen percent of poll respondents said they experienced difficulty sleeping three nights or more in a week.

Among those who reported sleep disorders three or more nights a week, 23% said they used a sleep aid prescription; which is not advisable for the long-term, according to the medical community.

“Although sleep disorders can occur in people in any age and for many reasons, the problem cannot be treated by taking pills, whether prescribed, without a prescription or herb, no matter what the ad says on TV,” Preeti Malani, a University of Michigan doctor trained in a Geriatric Medicine, stated.

“Some of these drugs can create big concerns in older adults, from falls and memory problems to confusion and constipation, even if they are sold without a prescription,” she said.

What the poll does not offer is advice on what to do, if the pills are not recommended—except to exercise earlier in the day.

Lack of sleep also is dangerous. In fact, the university said, sleeplessness has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases in adults and children.

Research contact: kegavin@med.umich.edu

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