More East Texans Buying Sleep Aids

About 70 million Americans have a problem getting a good night's rest. And drug companies for sleep aids such as Lunesta and Ambien are dishing out lots of money to get you to buy their medication.

Advertising for prescription and over- the-counter insomnia drugs was estimated at nearly $150 million last year. That's more than half of what those companies spent in 2004. KLTV 7 spoke with doctors all over East Texas to find out about the rise in sleeping pill prescriptions in our area.

Doctor Raymond Perkins works at Pulmonary Specialists of Tyler, a center that treats people with sleep disorders, among other health issues. He says in the past year, he's seen the number of patients asking for prescription sleep aids double. "I think that its direct marketing has greatly influenced the number of people asking for sleep medication," he says.

Melissa Hanks is a nurse at Pulmonary Specialists of Tyler and she's also a patient. After battling insomnia for 15 year, Melissa began taking the drug Ambien last year. "It's a good sleeping pill for me. It's a good way for me to get a good night's sleep," says Melissa.

Doctor Perkins says another reason the use of sleeping pills has gone up is the newer medications are safer than the older ones because they're not as habit-forming, so doctors are more comfortable prescribing them. But he warns, the risk of dependence is there. "There is still the problem with the medicine, even the new medications with dependence or habit of using the medication. That hasn't changed and any medicine that you use can have that potential," says Dr. Perkins.

Other doctors we spoke with said another downside to taking prescription drugs is that it may mask another problem, such as sleep apnea or depression. So, be thorough when discussing your symptoms with your doctor.

Doctor Perkins says any time a person is having a hard time staying awake, particularly while driving or if your health is affected in any other way.

Oralia Ortega reporting,