Release date 08/04/2008
YONKERS, NY — According to a new Consumer Reports survey to be published in the September issue, 44% of Americans are "Problem Sleepers;" they have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or wake up too early at least eight nights per month. In fact, survey respondents told Consumer Reports they are turning to drugs when other remedies can be just as effective. Even sound machines, which can be purchased from $20-$129, can be helpful, often as helpful as drugs, notes the magazine.
In a nationwide survey of 1,466 adults, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center in April 2008, CR asked people how well they slept the night, week, and month before participating in the survey. The key findings:
CR’s report cautions that far too many people are turning to medicine as a first resort to treat their insomnia. In fact, last year 24 million prescriptions were written for the four best-selling sleep drugs alone. “What people don’t realize is these medications can pose a host of side effects including daytime drowsiness, even bizarre behavior like sleep-walking, sleep-eating, and sleep-driving. There are alternative treatments, such as sound machines, that may be quite effective, yet pose no risks at all,” said Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports.
According to the report, drugmakers spend hundreds of millions of dollars yearly trying to persuade Americans to fix their sleep issues with medication. In fact, the two most heavily advertised prescription drugs last year were sleep aids Lunesta and Ambien CR, which had a combined direct-to-consumer ad budget of almost $500 million.
Sound Machines – A Viable Alternative
To gauge the effectiveness of the most commonly used tactics to get sleep, with a parallel survey Consumer Reports analyzed the experiences of 2,021 problem sleepers who used a specific approach for at least eight nights in the previous month before they were surveyed.
Sound machines were found to be almost as effective as pills, with 70 percent of people who tried sound machines saying the machines helped most nights. However, for people suffering from the most severe cases of sleep disturbance, only 50 percent said sound machines helped as much.
Other remedies were less effective: when over-the-counter drugs were used, they helped 57 percent of people most nights, a consistent sleep and wake routine helped 50 percent on most nights and muscle relaxation helped 40 percent on most nights.
With a group of a dozen panelists, Consumer Reports put three sound machines at three price points to the test. The Brookstone Tranquil Moments Sound Therapy System ($129) was a favorite. The machine, with 12 sound settings, masks unwanted noises on the white-noise setting. Half of the panelists said they would purchase the Marpac SleepMate 980A ($60); and just two panelists said they would purchase Homedics SoundSpa SS-2000 ($20). Listen for yourself: Go to www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org to hear these machines.
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
Consumer Reports offers the following tips for a good night’s sleep: