Consumer Reports: Tips to treat insomnia


Physically exhausted but mentally wide awake: It's what insomniacs experience nightly.

The number one reason we can't sleep is, not surprisingly, work-related stress, followed by health problems and financial difficulties. That's according to a Consumer Reports survey of more than 26,000 of its subscribers.

"Problem sleepers suffered on average 12 years," said Elissa Schuler Adair, Consumer Reports survey manager.

Consumer Reports also asked people what helps them "sleep tighter." Medications are at the top of the list. Those polled said over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol PM, Advil PM and Nyquil were helpful, though not the best.

"Forty percent of respondents said they helped a lot, compared to the newer prescription sleep medications like Ambien and its generic, zolpidem," said Schuler Adair. "Those scored at 70 percent."

But a serious drawback: A significant number of people were overusing prescription drugs, taking them at least 27 of the past 30 nights.

"Most of them are approved for at max 10 days," said Schuler Adair. "And there are concerns about using them for longer just because of rebound insomnia, dependency, and side effects like next-day grogginess."

Given these drawbacks, alternative therapies like yoga and meditation are worth considering. At least a quarter of those who tried alternative treatments found they helped.

Experts say if you are having trouble sleeping, also worth considering is a white-noise machine. More than 40 percent of those who tried one of these devices said they helped them sleep better.

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