Sleep Aids and Insomnia

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can have a very serious impact on quality of life, productivity and safety:

  • People with insomnia are four times as likely to suffer from depression than people who sleep well.
  • Lack of sleep due to insomnia may contribute to illness, including heart disease.
  • Safety on the job, at home, and on the road may be affected by sleepiness.
  • People with insomnia may miss more time from work or receive fewer promotions.
  • After a poor night's sleep, many people report accomplishing fewer daily tasks and enjoying activities less.


While individual suffering is hard to measure, researchers can estimate specific direct and indirect costs to the nation. Direct costs include dollars spent on insomnia treatments, healthcare services, hospital and nursing home care. The most recent annual estimate of the direct costs of insomnia is nearly $14 billion!

Indirect costs - such as work loss, property damage from accidents, and transportation to and from healthcare providers - are estimated at double the direct costs near $28 billion. One conservative report places total costs at up to $35 billion. (A National Sleep Foundation 1997 survey calculated that lost productivity alone from insomnia topped $18 billion!)


Treating insomnia with medication is the most common treatment for these sleep problems. Twenty-five percent of Americans take some type of medication every year to help them sleep.

Medications may be taken when:

  • The cause of insomnia has been identified and is best treated with medication.
  • Sleep difficulties cause problems in accomplishing daily activities.
  • Behavioral approaches have proven ineffective and the person is unwilling to try them.
  • A person is suffering insomnia-related distress and beginning behavioral therapy.
  • Insomnia is temporary or short-term.
  • Insomnia is expected or occurs in association with a known medical or biological condition (e.g. Premenstrual Syndrome ) or an event such as giving a speech or traveling across time zones.


Treatment with medications should:

  • begin with the lowest possible effective dose
  • be short-term, if used nightly
  • be intermittent, if used long-term
  • be used only in combination with good sleep practices and/or behavioral approaches

Prescription medications that promote sleep are called hypnotics. These