Investigation Unit: Not So Sleeping Beauty

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," said Maria.

To get some shut eye, Maria alternates taking prescription sleep aids, anti anxiety pills and muscle relaxants.

Maria said, "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.

Dr. Nancy Collop of Emory University said, "it's very clear that, you know, women have more problems with it."

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.

Collop said, "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 we just call her Ann, in the Klean Rehab Center.     

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

Experts at Klean 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. 

Director of Intake, Joe Klean said, "When a woman says to me I don't really have a problem, I ask her one question: 'can you sleep with out it? And if they say they can't sleep without it then there is a problem."

One potential problem is the side effects from long term use of sleep aids are not well studied.

But experts agree, the best way to resolve the problem is to figure out the real reason you can't sleep.

Maria found it was work stress and Ann's doctor discovered anxiety was keeping her up. 

Dr. Alan Jason Coe, medical director of Klean Treatment Center said, "The trend of using sleep aids to treat insomnia is not getting at the real problem whether it's an underlying anxiety problem or an underlying depression problem, that needs to be looked at."

Experts say everyone may have trouble sleeping now and then, if your insomnia persists for more than three weeks in a row, you may want to talk to your doctor.

But first try these simple sleep tips like, sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room, go to bed and get up at the same time each day, and if you can't fall asleep get up and read don't stay in bed.

Instead of taking pills, sleep doctors can teach you ways to modify your behavior and help figure out what's keeping you tossing and turning at night.

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