Usage of prescription sleep aids increases with age and education levels, according to a new report from the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention.
Previous studies have noted an increase in the number of prescriptions filled for sleep aids, and have noted that for young adults, sleep aid usage has tripled since 1998. But the CDC report for the first time analyzed person-based factors that describe differences in use, such as age, race and ethnicity, levels of education and self-reported sleep duration and insomnia.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 25 percent of Americans take some type of sleep medication at some point during the year, but the CDC report found that about 4 percent of adults in the United States over the age of 20 have done so in the last 30 days and that use also varied by gender and age.
More adult women, for example, used sleep aids than adult men. And 7 percent of adults over the age of 80 reported using prescription sleep aids in the last month, compared to just under 2 percent of those between 20 and 39 years old. The survey also took into account the respondents' self-reported level of education and found that sleep aid use increased with education. More than 4 percent of those who had more than a high school diploma reported using sleep aids in the past 30 days, compared to 3 percent of those who never completed high school.
Although up to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders or deprivation that can affect their health, the report also cautions that sleep aids can also have adverse effects.
"Prescription sleep aids are one of the treatment options for trouble going into or maintaining sleep," the report says. "However, long-term use of sleep aids has been linked to adverse outcomes in health."
A study from 2012 found that those who used prescription sleeps aids had a greater than threefold increased risk of death, even when they were prescribed fewer than 18 pills each year.
"The meagre benefits of hypnotics ... would not justify substantial risks. A consensus is developing that cognitive-behavioural therapy of chronic insomnia may be more successful than hypnotics," the study said. "Against meagre benefits, it is prudent to weigh the evidence of mortality risks from the current study and 24 previous reports, in order to reconsider whether even short-term use of hypnotics ... is sufficiently safe."