Consumer Reports looks at ways to beat insomnia

A lot of people say they find it hard to fall asleep and find they may sleep two or three hours and then they're up.

The number one reason we can't sleep is, not surprisingly, work-related stress, followed by health problems and financial difficulties. That is according to a Consumer Reports survey of more than 26,000 of its subscribers.

"Problem sleepers suffered on average 12 years," said Elissa Schuler-Adair from Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports also asked people what helps them sleep better. Medications are at the top of the list. Those polled said over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol PM, Advil PM, and Nyquil were helpful although not the best.

"Forty percent of respondents said they helped a lot, compared to the newer prescription sleep medications like Ambien and its generic Zolpidem. Those scored at 70 percent," said Schuler-Adair.

But a serious drawback is a significant number of people were overusing prescription drugs, taking them at least 27 of the past 30 nights.

"Most of them are approved for at max 10 days. And there are concerns about using them for longer just because of rebound insomnia, dependency, and the side effects like next-day grogginess," said Schuler-Adair.

Given these drawbacks, alternative therapies like yoga and meditation are worth considering. At least a quarter of those who tried alternative treatments found they helped.

Researchers also told Consumer Reports that if you are having trouble sleeping, it's also worth considering a white-noise machine. More than 40 percent of those who tried one said they helped them sleep better.

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