Alarming: Sleeping pill stats and drowsy driving
About 9 million adults -- mostly white, female, 50 or older and educated -- take prescription sleeping pills, according to a new government study.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) interviewed 17,000 adults from 2005 to 2010 in the first government study analyzing the use of prescription sleeping aids, according to the Associated Press.
Four percent of those interviewed said in the past month they had taken a sedative or sleeping pill prescribed by a doctor. The CDC study didn't address whether usage was increasing, but according to IMS Health, a health care information and technology company, about 60 million sleep aid prescriptions were issued in 2011, up 20 percent since 2006.
Here are some key findings of the CDC study:
- Women are more likely than men to take sleeping pills, 5 percent versus 3 percent.
- More whites take pills — nearly 5 percent, compared to 2.5 percent of blacks and 2 percent of Hispanics.
- Prescription use increases with age, to 7 percent of those 80 and older.
Between 50 million and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders or sleep deprivation, according to the Institute of Medicine. Adults typically need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, but more than a third of adults get less, according to the CDC.
In addition to being tired, people who aren't getting enough sleep may suffer from the onset or increased severity of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.
The CDC study comes on the heels of another government analysis on sleeping pills containing zolpidem, by far the most commonly used sleep aid that is in Ambien and similar tablets.
In January, the Food and Drug Administration said that women should cut in half their dosage of sleeping pills containing zolpidem, after laboratory studies and driving tests confirmed the risk of driving while drowsy the morning after.
Researchers in the FDA's drug research unit say that women take longer to metabolize the drug than men, so an estimated 10 to 15 percent of women will have a level of zolpidem in their bodies that could impair driving eight hours after they take it. About 3 percent of men do.
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's.
Follow him on Twitter @destoups