Your Health

Sleeping Pills Most Popular With Older People, Women

The proportion of people in different age groups who have taken sleeping pills in the past 30 days.

The proportion of people in different age groups who have taken sleeping pills in the past 30 days. CDC hide caption

itoggle caption CDC

If you've had problems sleeping and have taken a pill to help, you're not alone.

About 9 million American adults had taken sleeping pills in the past month, according to findings from a detailed nationwide survey conducted between 2005 and 2010.

Overall, about 4 percent of people 20 and older had taken sleeping pills in the last 30 days, says the report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

But who's taking them exactly. The popularity of sleeping pills generally increases with age. The highest use — 7 percent in the past month — is among people 80 and up. Use is lowest among people 20 to 39 — only 1.8 percent.

Women (5 percent) are more likely than men (3.1 percent) to be taking sleeping pills.

Whites were more likely to have taken the pills than blacks or Mexican-Americans.

The NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says this analysis is the first one based on systematic first-person accounts rather than insurance claims data or sales data.

Sleeping pills may bring some relief, but they also come with baggage.

Early this year, the Food and Drug Administration reminded doctors that Ambien, and drugs like it, can stay in the body longer than had been thought. People taking the drugs can be drowsy the next day and have trouble driving. So the agency asked doctors to use the lowest doses for their patients and moved to require drugmakers to cut the strength of their medicines containing zolpidem.

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