We have Tiger Woods to thank for suggesting an off-label use of the prescription sleep aid Ambien®. Although there are plenty of people who would love their sex life to be more exciting (the odds a man would like his partner to be more adventurous in the bedroom are 1 in 2.08, and for a woman they’re 1 in 3.03), but most of us resorting to sleeping pills are just looking for a good night’s rest. Getting more sleep is so high on the to-do list that 1 in 8.33 adults make it the subject of a New Year’s resolution.
The odds an adult has difficulty falling asleep at least a few nights a week are 1 in 3.85. Many people who do struggle to get to sleep go the pharmaceutical route, opting for either over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids (such as Nytol®, Sominex®, and Tylenol® PM) or prescription sleep medication (including old standbys such as Valium and Halcion, newer generation drugs such as Lunesta® and Ambien CR®, or antidepressants). OTC aids are the more common choice, but not by much: The odds an adult takes an OTC sleep aid at least a few nights a month are 1 in 11.11, compared to 1 in 14.29 for prescription sleep medication.
Both types of sleep aids carry drawbacks. OTC medications, whose primary active ingredient is antihistamine, can leave you groggy in the morning, and they become less effective if you use them night after night (the phenomenon of tolerance). They also can lead to a form of psychological dependence in which you become convinced you won’t be able to get a good night’s sleep without a pill. Prescription sleep medication is less likely to cause grogginess and tolerance but can still cause dependence.
Of course, pills aren’t the only type of sleep aid. Recent research suggests that keeping the temperature relatively cool (i.e., below 68 degrees) can promote sleep. For some people, finding a way to block out noise or light can prevent sleeplessness. The odds an adult wears an eye mask or earplugs to help him or her sleep at least a few nights a month are 1 in 33.33.
And many insomniacs still rely on an old standby that doctors strongly frown upon—the nightcap. The odds an adult drinks alcohol, beer, or wine to help him or her sleep at least a few nights a month are 1 in 9.09. Sleep experts say this is a bad idea because alcohol cuts down on deep sleep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which your body needs for you to wake up feeling refreshed. To make matters worse, alcohol is a diuretic that makes it more likely you’ll have to get up to use the bathroom.
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