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Research: more women turning to sleeping pills

Research: more women turning to sleeping pills

By Matt Montgomery. CREATED Jan 17, 2012 - UPDATED: Jan 17, 2012

MILWAUKEE- Are you sleepless in Milwaukee?  Many people, especially women, are turning to unnatural remedies to get to sleep.  Research finds more and more women are turning to sleeping pills in order to get their beauty sleep.  It's a problem that's sending many women to rehab clinics.

Maria is a high-powered business executive by day and at night, she's wide awake.  For more than a year she's suffered from insomnia.

"It's very difficult to empty my mind of the stresses of the day," says Maria.  To get some shut-eye, Maria alternates taking prescription sleep aids, anti anxiety pills and muscle relaxants.  "On a bad night when I feel a lot of anxiety, I definitely cannot sleep without the help of drugs."

Maria is just one of a new era of sleepless women popping prescription and over the counter pills.  A study from the National Sleep Foundation found nearly three in ten women say they take sleeping aids at least a few nights a week.

Doctor Nancy Collop runs Emory University's sleep center, where three out of four insomnia patients are female.  She's seeing more over scheduled soccer moms, stressed out working women, and women undergoing hormonal changes taking pills to help them rest.  "it's very clear that, you know, women have more problems with it," says Dr. Collop. "If they're using them intermittently you know, a few nights here and there it's probably not so bad.  But we find that most people probably don't really want to have to depend on taking a sleeping pill every night to sleep."

Developing a dependency on sleeping pills is what landed this insomniac, who asked TODAY'S TMJ4 to just call her "Ann", in the Klean Rehab Center.

"The issue became I couldn't sleep without them," said Ann.

Experts at the Klean Rehab Center say Ann is like many sleepless women who become "accidental addicts". They start using over the counter sleeping pills, then prescription pills, then stronger medications-and a cycle of dependency starts. 

But experts agree, the best way to resolve the problem-figure out the real reason you can't sleep.  Instead of taking pills, sleep doctors help modify your behavior and figure out what's keeping you tossing and turning at night.