It’s almost inevitable. Toss and turn for long enough, and eventually the middle-of-the-night bargaining will begin—If I fall asleep in the next 10 minutes, I’ll get five hours. Ten minutes pass. Fifteen minutes pass.
So what is there to do? Counting sheep is fine, if you’re relaxed by the idea of farm animals wandering around your room, but otherwise seems kind of ineffective. Warm milk’s another option, though the science on that one is a little iffy, too.
Another answer is sleeping pills. And another answer, for tens of thousands of Americans, is too many sleeping pills, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The report observed a dramatic uptick in emergency-room visits related to zolpidem, the active ingredient in Ambien and other prescription sleep aids, from 2005 to 2010 (suicide attempts, bad reactions to the correct dosage of zolpidem, and cases where people had taken the drug without a prescription were not counted).
Women in particular were especially vulnerable, making up roughly two-thirds of all zolpidem-related mishaps. Although women are only slightly more likely to use prescription sleep aids (5 percent of women take them, as opposed to 3.1 percent of men), they’re also slower to metabolize them.
*Image of “sleeping pills” via Shutterstock