Millions rely on sleep aids to rest at night - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Millions rely on sleep aids to rest at night

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A first of it's kind government study estimates nearly nine million adults in the U.S. try some sort of sleeping aid to get a good night's rest, whether it be a prescription or an over the counter remedy.

There are many reasons why people are not getting enough sleep. It's important to note insomnia can be symptom of a more serious underlying problem. By and large though, the reason Americans are turning to sleep aids has a lot to do with our modern lifestyle.

Doctor Harold Wilson is a doctor at the Brookwoood Pulmonary and Sleep Associates of Alabama. Over the past two decades, He's seen the trend.

"It definitely wasn't surprising for me to see that sort of information. I think it's something sleep specialists have been aware of for some time," said Wilson.

Given the pace of today's society, Wilson the problem was bound to happen.

"Just the mindset of people trying to get the most out of every second of their day, trying to truncate sleep or cut it out as an expendable part of their lives," said Wilson.

Adults should get anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. At least a third of adults get less than that. Wilson says insomnia can be complex. The cause for insomnia is not one size fits all.  But there are some modern habits that contribute to the problem.

"I think there's the impact of technology. The fact that people stay up working on computers. They tend to use their bed as an extension of their office a lot times," said Wilson.

Many experts believe the problem is more far reaching than the numbers show, because it doesn't count millions who are reaching for over-the-counter remedies.

Wilson says over-the-counter sleeps aids are fine for short-term use. But he warns.

"The problem with a lot of the over the counter medications is they're not as specific in how they affect the brain in inducing sleep, and then removing those results when you're ready to wake up. So as a result people to tend to have a hangover affect," said Wilson.

Of course there are prescription drugs. Wilson says they are better for long term use. But even he admits there is a lot of research still needed to the impact the drugs can have. He says some research has linked some sleeping drugs to death.  In some cases, doctors in his profession have been advised to give their patients lower doses because dependency is a risk factor.

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