Prescription sleep medications rise in the United States because of the coronavirus pandemic

More need for sleep meds during pandemic
Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 4:58 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, we’re finding new ways that it’s affecting our lives. For example, it’s making it harder to get a good night of sleep.

According to a report from Express Scripts, between mid-February and mid-March of 2020, there was a 14.8% increase in prescription sleep medications in the United States. Experts said this is a result of pandemic-related stress causing insomnia.

“There is a lot of uncertainty. Many people are working less or maybe not working. What does the future hold? How is this going to look?” said Sparrow Sleep Lab Medical Director Dr. Jeniffer Ely said.

Karen Shaftner from Charlotte is an example of how the stresses of the pandemic have caused her to rely on sleep medicine. She takes a prescribed sleep aid every night. Shaftner said her biggest struggle is staying asleep.

“I’m waking up sometimes two or three hours before my alarm clock goes off. You wake up and you’re stressed,” said Shaftner.

Dr. Ely said struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep are signs of insomnia. She said it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to fall asleep.

But the best way to combat insomnia without medications is to get back to a normal routine.

“Certainly starting with going to bed at a similar time every night. Getting up at a similar time every day. Whether it’s to an alarm or not, getting that 7 to 8-hour sleep is really the cornerstone there,” said Dr. Ely.

Dr. Ely said routine exercise, limiting electronic devices before bed, and eating healthy can improve sleep.

Experts also said getting off sleep medications can cause rebound insomnia, which means the insomnia is worse than what it was before medication. However, doctors said that should only last a few days.

For more information on insomnia during the pandemic, click here.

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