About 4% of Americans aged 20 and older—some 8.6 million of us—turn to prescription drugs like Lunesta and Ambien to catch a few winks, a study finds. In the first federal study on usage, researchers followed 17,000 people between 2005 and 2010. A quarter of them had enough trouble sleeping that they talked to their doctors about it, NBC News reports; nationwide, some 50 million to 70 million suffer sleep disorders or deprivation, officials say.
Pill use jumped as subjects got older; some 5% of forty- and fifty-somethings took the medications, as did 7% of people past 80. Some 5% of women used sleep drugs, versus just 3.1% of men; unsurprisingly, an expert notes that insomnia is more common among women. Highly educated people were also more likely to take the pills. "I think that there are people who don’t get enough sleep because they have responsibilities and jobs and expectations," says a neurology professor. Interestingly, use peaked at 4.5% during 2007-2008, at the height of the recession, NBC notes. (Read more sleeping pills stories.)