The Price Of A Good Night's Sleep

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Now to some folks, sleep is simply overrated.

"If I could live life the way I wanted, I wouldn't sleep at all," says Lucy Koller. "I would spend 24 hours a day doing stuff.

But for many of us, a good night's sleep is simply priceless. Which is why sleep, or lack of it, is big business: everything from $7,000 mattresses to relaxation CDs, reports CBS Sunday Morning contributor Dr. Emily Senay.

Sleep is such big business, people are even willing to pay to take a nap. At the Mall of America in Minneapolis, there's Minne-NAP-olis, where you can catch up on some shuteye in their ultra-quiet rooms equipped with just about every sleep-inducing gizmo imaginable. You just have to pay for it -- a dollar a minute.

But when it comes to really putting their money where their mouths are, more and more Americans are beating a path to the pharmacy. Since 2001, sales of sleeping medications have increased 55 percent. Last year, customers spent $2 billion on state-of-the art drugs like Ambien and its competitors, Lunesta and Sonata.

Everybody knows that going without sleep can make you feel terrible, but long-term sleep depravation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, even premature death.

And if you think drunk driving is dangerous, try drowsy driving. According to the government, 100,000 car crashes a year are caused by sleep-deprived drivers.

And what's more, there are serious sleep disorders, often under-diagnosed, like sleep apnea, the inability to breathe while sleeping.
Or this: restless leg syndrome.

So clearly sleeplessness is a problem, but is it a crisis? Maybe. Maybe not.

"I don't think there's any evidence that the prevalence of insomnia has changed significantly in the last 10 years, states Dr. Gregg Jacobs, a sleep researcher at the University of Massachusetts.

"The National Sleep Foundation does polls every couple of years called the Sleep In America poll. They documented the exact same prevalence rates over the last five years for insomnia," he adds.

So what accounts for the huge increase in sales of all those sleeping pills? According to Jacobs, it's all the ads.

"The major increase in use of these sleeping medications are due to the direct advertising to consumers. And the advertising has become very intense. Very sophisticated. And does sell the medications," Jacobs says.
Medications that, Jacobs says, are being used by too many people for too long, far longer than some of the drug-makers themselves recommend.

"The more these drugs are used long-term and the longer they've been on the market, outside of the initial marketing phase, and the more they're evaluated independently by scientists who aren't funded by drug companies, the more we're going to see these long-term effects, and they may end up being fairly serious," Jacobs warns.

"I went on Ambien as soon as it came out," reveals Brenda Pobre of Salinas, Calif. And, the drug worked.

Pobre fell right asleep, but that's not all she did. "I would wake up in the morning, and there would be candy wrappers all around the bed. There would be crumbs in the bed. There would be all kinds of evidence that someone had been eating in the bed. But I had absolutely no recollection of it," Pobre says.

The result: a 100-pound weight gain. Cases like Pobre's caught the attention of researchers at the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorder Center.