18 percent of U.S. adults use medication to help them sleep

Sleep mask. Photo: Ela Dutt

In search of a good night’s sleep, 18 percent of U.S. adults use some type of medication to help them snooze, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes those who say they take sleep medication most nights (6 percent), every night (2 percent) or some nights (10 percent). More women than men take sleep medication, and usage overall increases with age, the report finds.

People with insomnia – those who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep – often seek relief through medication, either prescription or over-the-counter. Health experts, however, generally advise against long-term use of sleep medication because of possible side effects and interference with other medications.

Instead, cognitive behavioral therapy may help overcome sleep problems, as can such lifestyle changes as avoiding nicotine and caffeine, sticking to a sleep schedule (same bedtime and wake-up time every day), no afternoon napping and limiting the use of electronics before bedtime.

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Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night, but about a third of adults do not get enough sleep, according to the CDC. The nonprofit group Mental Health America says nearly two-thirds of adults report that they lose sleep because of stress. Not getting enough sleep raises the risk for various diseases and disorders, including heart disease, obesity and dementia.

But regularly getting a good night’s sleep benefits your brain, your mood and your overall health – with some saying it’s as important as diet and exercise for a long and healthy life.

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