Sleeping pill use grows as economy keeps people up at night

Friday, March 27, 2009 - 19:49 in Psychology & Sociology

More Americans are turning to such medications, but they're not without risks, such as dependence, next-day drowsiness, memory loss and sleep-walking. Lost jobs and lost careers. Promising businesses in shambles. The college acceptance letter returned to its envelope. This is how President Obama recently described the effect of the tanking economy on ordinary Americans -- and the stresses keeping them up at night. ¶ ¶ Sleeplessness is a problem even in good times. One in 10 U.S. adults routinely has trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep and 3 in 10 experience occasional sleeplessness, federal statistics show. ¶ But these are definitely not good times. More than 1 in 4 -- or 27% of Americans -- say anxieties about personal finances, the economy or a job loss kept them awake in the previous month, according to a new poll by the National Sleep Foundation. ¶ If that isn't enough evidence of our increasingly sleep-deprived state, consider this: Since September, audiences of such after-prime-time network shows as "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" have risen. No wonder the collective experience of "sleepless nights" found its way into a presidential address. ¶ As Americans struggle for a good night's rest, they are looking for help from a pill. Prescriptions for sleeping medications topped 56 million in 2008 -- a record, according to the research firm IMS Health, up 54% from 2004.

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