Millions using prescription sleep aids each month despite lack of research on long-term risks
Estimates suggest that 50-70 million Americans experience some sort of sleep disorder, failing to get the 7-9 hours of sleep per night that is generally recommended for adults to maintain good health.
The Centers for Disease Control recently released data from a national survey on prescription sleep aids. The study, which included interviews with 17,000 adults between 2005 and 2010, found that about 4% of U.S. adults ages 20 and over (approximately 9 million people) had used prescription sleep aids in the past month.
The study also refers to market research suggesting a tripling in the number of sleep aid prescriptions between 1998 and 2006 for people ages 18-24. Use of prescription sleep aids varied based on gender, education and ethnicity.The study found that older and more educated populations were more likely to use prescription sleep aids, and women (5%) were more likely to use them than men (3.1%). Whites respondents were also the most likely to use prescription sleep aids (4.7%, compared to 2.5% of non-Hispanic black respondents and 2% of Mexican-American respondents.)
The use of the aids was highest among those adults sleeping fewer than 5 hours a night or 9 or more hours a night. Research suggests that sleep aids do work, but experts warn that drug-induced sleep may not be of the same quality as natural sleep, and only a limited number of studies have looked into the long-term effects of chronic prescription sleep aid use.