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The Big Business of Falling Asleep

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The 2013 Rx Sleep Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Targeted Medical Pharma, found the vast majority of Americans don’t get enough sleep. The telephone survey was conducted by Harris between April 25 and 28 among 1,008 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older. Results were weighted for age, sex, geographic region and race when necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.

Eighty-eight percent of women and 78 percent of men say they don’t sleep well on a regular basis. Stress and anxiety are common culprits, along with pain, children, difficulty breathing and being overtired. Interestingly, a higher percentage of women than men blamed all of these culprits. The only sleep-blocker that men (19%) complained about more than women (16%) were their significant others or spouses.

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The survey also found that people with household incomes of more than $100, 000 annually (41%) were less inclined to say stress or anxiety were reasons for not getting good sleep, compared with individuals with household incomes of less than $35,000 annually (55%). The same disparity went for pain. Only 31 percent of America’s high earners said pain was a reason for not sleeping, compared with 45 percent of those making the lowest wages.

A quarter of the people surveyed would be willing to take a prescription sleep aid and just slightly more than half of them would do so if the ingredients were recognized as safe as defined by the Food and Drug Administration.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of short-term psychotherapy that involves modifying sleep habits and behaviors, has been shown to improve sleep. And relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and nutritional supplements, such as melatonin, are different treatments aimed at improving sleep.

Americans spend about $34 billion annually on alternative medicine, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, with $3 billion spent on homeopathy, highly diluted drugs made from natural ingredients. Vitamins and minerals are not included in this data.

An estimated $45 billion was spent on prescription drugs last year, with $4.5 billion going to sleeping medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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Prescription alternatives, such as medical foods, are growing in adoption among physicians and patients. Medical foods treat the nutritional deficiencies in chronic sleep disorders, rather than just addressing the symptoms. They are available by prescription only, and must be administered under continuing physician supervision. According to clinical research, these foods are effective and have no adverse side effects because of ingredients that are generally recognized as safe by the FDA.

Targeted Medical Phrama (TRGM), is a biotech company that develops and distributes prescription foods to physicians and pharmacies. Targeted Medical authored the sleep study.

Switzerland-based food giant Nestlé recently announced it has agreed to buy U.S. medical foods company Pamlab. Also, last year, Nestlé bought a stake in U.S. company Accera, which makes a medical food brand for Alzheimer's patients.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, Americans spend $14 billion annually on insomnia treatments, health care services, hospital and nursing home care. Indirect costs of insomnia, such as work loss, property damage from accidents, and transportation to and from health care providers, are estimated at double the direct costs at $28 billion.

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