THURSDAY, Aug. 29 (HealthDay News) -- About 4 percent of
American adults -- more than 8.5 million people -- have used a
prescription sleep aid in the past month, and the use increases
with age, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.
In addition, more women (5 percent) than men (3.1 percent) over
the age of 20 take these drugs, and those with higher education
levels are more likely to use them, the researchers from the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
"This is the first time we have a national estimate on how many people are taking prescription medications for sleep," said report coauthor Yinong Chong, an epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
In the past 20 years, there has been reports of an increased
number of prescriptions for sleep aids in the United States. But,
Chong said, the use of such drugs has remained stable in the past
decade, rising about only 1 percent between 1999 to 2010.
The drugs included in the research were: butabarbital (brand
name Butabarb), chloral hydrate (Aquachloral), estazolam (Eurodin),
eszopiclone (Lunesta), flurazepam (Dalmane), quazepam (Doral),
ramelteon (Rozerem), temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion),
zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien).
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination
Survey, 2005 to 2010, the CDC researchers found that self-reported
use of the sleep aids was lowest among the youngest age group
(those between 20 and 39 years old) at about 2 percent, but it
increased to 6 percent among those aged 50 to 59 and reached 7
percent among those 80 and older.
Dr. Jordan Josephson, a nasal and endoscopic sinus surgeon at
Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said he was not surprised by
the numbers because "sleep disorders have been estimated to affect
50 million to 70 million Americans."
"More accurate diagnosis and better education has led more people to seek treatment for these disorders, which affect them in every aspect of their lives," Josephson said.
For example, snoring and sleep apnea are the No. 1 medical cause
of relationship breakups and divorce, Josephson said. Insomnia
leads to fatigue, which leads to poor performance at work and
school, as well as motor vehicle accidents and injuries while using
heavy machinery, he added.
"For those people who suffer from fatigue and/or daytime somnolence -- being tired and feeling sleepy -- it is important for them to seek treatment from a board-certified sleep specialist," he said. "With proper diagnosis and treatment, these patients will have an improved quality of life."
Sleep-aid drugs have, however, become a new focus for the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration over concerns that they may impact
people's ability to drive the next morning. New evidence appears to
confirm what many people have long suspected: that the effects of
sleep drugs can persist well into the next day.
Last month, the FDA rejected an application for suvorexant, a
new sleep drug from Merck, in part because tests showed that some
people had difficulty driving the day after taking the drug.
The FDA said it was taking a closer look at all sleep medicines
on the market and will ask manufacturers to conduct more extensive
driving tests for all new sleep drugs.
For many people, insomnia may be tied to other chronic
conditions that also need to be treated, another expert said.
Sleep medications are only part of the story, said Dr. Alon
Avidan, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the David Geffen
School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Many patients with insomnia also suffer from other problems, such
as depression, chronic pain and mental disorders, he added.
"We should be looking at insomnia as not just managing the insomnia itself, but also treating the underlying disease," he said.
"But treating the underlying condition doesn't mean the insomnia will go away," he said. "What we generally do is we treat the insomnia separately from ... the underlying condition. When we treat both conditions, the end result is much better than addressing one symptom alone."
Other highlights of the report included:
For more information on insomnia, visit the
National Sleep Foundation.
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