Sleepless in America


Is the economy keeping you awake at night?

You are not alone. A recent National Sleep Foundation poll has found that one in four Americans say worries over personal finances, layoffs and the state of the economy at large are keeping them up at night.  These numbers are reflected in an increase in audiences for late night television shows.

But these aren’t the only numbers that are increasing.

Prescriptions for sleep medications have also grown, topping 56 million in 2008. Good news, I guess, for the pharmaceutical companies selling those GABA-enhancing  Z drugs (Ambien, Lunesta, Rozerem) that promote sleep, decrease anxiety or relax muscles.

While these pills may help you sleep, there’s a a long list of possible adverse reactions ranging from next-day drowsiness to memory loss and drug dependence.

According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) analysis published in 2005, though, the assistance may not even be noticeable. The NIH study reported that Z drugs only reduced the average time it took to fall asleep by around 18 minutes. Worse yet, the total increased sleeping time was only about 28 minutes. Which should make you ask, are the adverse reactions worth it?

Well, many sleep experts advise skipping the pills and trying to fall asleep on our own. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

A good place to start is by checking out these tips from Gayle Greene, a bona fide insomniac and author of the book Insomniac. There are also a number of natural sleep aids that might do the trick. And be sure to check back here tomorrow, April 16th, for our guide to getting restful sleep – naturally.

Image: Maxintosh