Sleeping Pills Used More Often by Older, Educated Adults

Use of sleeping medications increases with age and education levels, according to a U.S. report on the demographics of those taking the drugs.

About 4 percent of U.S. adults ages 20 and older reported taking a sleep aid, according to the study released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 3 percent of those who didn’t finish high school reported using sleep aids, compared with 4.4 percent of those with high school degrees or higher education. Use was greater among people older than 70, the Atlanta-based agency said.

Prescriptions for sleep aids have tripled over the past two decades, according to the report. Today’s research looked at trends from 2005 to 2010 and is the first to examine differences in use of the drugs by social and demographic groups, the authors wrote. About 50 million to 70 million Americans have sleep disorders or are sleep-deprived, which can increase difficulties in functioning.

“Prescription sleep aids are one of the treatment options for trouble going into or maintaining sleep,” the authors wrote. Long-term use of these medicines also can be harmful, they said.

Older people were most likely to use sleeping pills, with 7 percent of those 80 and older and 5.7 percent of those 70 to 79 reporting having used the drugs within the previous 30 days, during the course of the study. More women than men reported using the medications.

Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep to avoid higher likelihoods of illness and death, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

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