Americans’ use of prescription sleeping pills drops dramatically

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After rising sharply for several decades, Americans’ use of prescription sleep aids is down sharply, a new study finds.

The study, published online July 12, 2022, by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, analyzed data from 29,400 adults collected from 2013 to 2018 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Survey. On three separate visits during this period, participants were presented with prescription bottles for all the medications they had used in the previous month. The researchers noted all medications used for sleep disorders (whether or not they were FDA-approved for this use) and looked at changes in their use over time.

Over the course of the study, the likelihood of participants using sleeping pills dropped by 31%. Notably, among participants 80 and older — who are most vulnerable to falls while using sleeping pills — researchers found an 86% reduction in use of FDA-approved sleeping pills.

Although the researchers said the COVID-19 pandemic may have since influenced the trend in sleeping pill use, they were encouraged by the study results. Medical and public health groups have strongly advised against the use of sleeping pills due to side effects such as dizziness and lightheadedness, which can lead to falls.

Image: © Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

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