Federal Health Study Says 8.6 Million Americans Are Popping Prescription Sleeping Pills

If you’re tossing and turning every night in a futile search for the elusive experience of a good night’s sleep, you aren’t alone. And if you’re taking prescription medication to ease that hunt for Zzzs, there are 8.6 million other Americans out there just like you. We’re a restless nation, says the first federal health study to focus on prescription sleeping pills.

The study combed through 17,000 respondents age 20 and older, and found that between 2005 and 2010, about 4% said they’d thrown back drugs like Lunesta and Ambien in the previous month, reports NBC News. Of those, about a quarter had a tough enough time falling asleep or staying asleep that they reported it to their doctors.

“They told us they had difficulty getting to sleep, or they were waking up and couldn’t get back to sleep,” said Yinong Chong, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose study is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

It appears from this report that it’s getting harder to get a full night’s rest, which for adults is supposed to be between seven and nine hours. The CDC says a full third of adults aren’t getting that, however, and the numbers would appear to agree: About 59 million sleeping pills were prescribed in the U.S. in 2012, compared to 56 million in 2008, according to IMS Health.

Sleeping pill use among the 40- and 50-year-old set is also rising, with 5% of those using drugs to aid their efforts. It appears that the higher educated set and women were taking pills more, the authors found, perhaps because of the struggles of modern life.

Make sure to report any kind of trouble falling asleep or staying asleep before taking any kind of medication, prescription or no. Simply swiping a few pills from your coworker — the one known as the walking medicine cabinet, perhaps — is not a safe idea.

Sleepless in the states: Nearly 9 million pop pills for shut-eye [NBC News]