The No. 1 reason we can't sleep, not surprisingly, is work-related stress, followed by health problems and financial difficulties, according to the Consumer Reports survey of more than 26,000 subscribers. Problem sleepers suffered on average 12 years.
Consumer Reports also asked people what helps. Of those polled, 40 percent said over-the-counter drugs such as Advil PM, Nyquil, and Tylenol PM were helpful. Even more effective were newer prescription sleep medications such as Ambien (generic zolpidem). Those scored at 70 percent. But there was a serious drawback. A significant number of people were overusing prescription drugs, taking them at least 27 of the previous 30 nights. Most prescription sleep medications are approved for a maximum of 10 days. There are concerns about using them for longer because of rebound insomnia, dependency, and side effects like next-day grogginess. Given those drawbacks, Consumer Reports says alternative therapies like yoga and meditation are worth considering. At least a quarter of those who tried alternative treatments found that they helped.
Consumer Reports says if you are having trouble sleeping, a white-noise machine is also worth considering. More than 40 percent of those who tried one of the devices said they helped them sleep better.