Consumer Reports – the subscriber supported (ie: no advertising) monthly magazine that analyses all things consumer, recently did a section called “Sleep Tighter” in their August 2012 issue. Since they are terrifically unbiased, I thought it was worth relaying a few of the more interesting stats they found.
Their survey was of 26,451 of Consumer Reports readers, which could skew results. However, when they examined their data as compared to wider, nationwide surveys, they tracked closely. So we can extrapolate that Consumer Reports readers are representative of the population as a whole.
First, The Headline
After all the research I’ve done on this topic, it’s gratifying to see that they came up with the same conclusions I have. When they surveyed the “Good Sleepers” in the sample (8900 of them), these characteristics were significantly more common among them:
- They exercised during the day.
- They unwound for at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
- They went to bed and got up at the same time.
- They had sex before sleep.
I’ve covered all of these (except the last one) in detail – and it seems like basic sleep hygiene to me. Exercise and schedule (wind down, go to sleep, and get up with regularity) were all apparent in this group.
If there’s a magic elixir to fix whatever ails you – exercise seems to be it. There is no downside and fantastic up side. If there’s a problem you have, chances are good that exercise can help.
Now The Rest of the Survey
After the headline, the survey worked through what kept you awake:
- 47% said work related stress
- 28% said health problems
- 22% said financial woes
Then they spent a large part of the rest of the article talking about what people took for insomnia, and what they said worked best. Overall, the survey respondents said that pharmaceuticals worked better than over the counter drugs. And over the counter drugs worked better than “natural supplements”.
From most to least, people who took the sleep aid who said it helped a lot:
- Ambien and Lunesta (newer non-benzodiazepines) – 71%
- Halcion and Restoril (benzodiazepines approved for sleep) – 62%
- Klonopin and Xanax (benzodiazepine off label use) – 59%
- Trazadone - 56%
- Opiates like OxyContin (off label use) – 42%
- Nyquil - 41%
- Advil PM, Tylenol PM and Benedryl - 41%
- Melatonin - 31%
For the complete list, get a copy of the August 2012 Consumer Reports – page 31.
The really revealing result is as I expected. Drugs of any sort (pharmaceutical, over the counter) have side effects. The most common is next day drowsiness. While the natural supplements (valerian, melatonin) and alternative treatments (yoga, deep breathing, aromatherapy) had fewer side effects – and may have other beneficial health outcomes – they were statistically less effective.
The best way to cure insomnia long term is not through some kind of supplement, but through basic changes in the way to live your life. Sleep hygiene could be one. CBT is another. Often, it’s a combination of things that will work for you.
Once you’ve come to that same realization (and eventually you will), sleep will really start to improve…