Sleep Medications Use Increasing

A significant share of adults struggle to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, and many people who consistently find falling and staying asleep each night elusive turn to sleep medications – and the use of these drugs generally increases with age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

A recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that in 2020, 8.4 percent of adults took sleep medications either every day or most days in the last 30 days.  Nearly 1 in 5 American adults take an over-the-counter sleep aid or prescription medication to help them sleep. Women were more likely than men to take medication to fall asleep; and among men, those with lower and middle incomes were more likely to use sleep medication. 

Insufficient sleep is linked with a host of physical and mental health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression and an increased risk for dementia.  But the CDC reports that up to a third of adults don’t get enough sleep – more than 35 percent of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep each night and 1 in 20 report having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past month. 

Sleep is as important to overall health and well-being as a healthy diet, regular exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction.  Daily stressors, an erratic sleep schedule, hormonal fluctuations associated with menopause, and drug side effects are just a few of the many underlying causes of sleep deprivation. 

To promote regular, and restful sleep, talk to your doctor before starting any new medication and try to practice good “sleep hygiene”.   Limit caffeine and alcohol later in the day, and try to turn off devices an hour before bedtime to unwind away from screens with music, a warm bath, or some light reading.  Keeping the bedroom dark, cool and quiet can also help create a more comfortable environment for optimal sleep.  Avoid eating or drinking late in the evening, so indigestion or trips to the bathroom don’t interrupt a good night’s sleep.  Don’t forget to try and spend time in natural sunlight if possible each day to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. 

Instead of viewing a lack of sleep as a badge of honour, protecting good sleep as a health necessity can improve focus, concentration, productivity, and energy, and boost mood.  Not only will there be fewer accidents from drowsy drivers, but families will surely enjoy less grumpy housemates.