Treating sleep disturbances: let me count the ways

Treating sleep disturbances: let me count the ways

If you have pain, take a pain reliever; if you can’t sleep, take sleep medication. Right?

Wrong. Packaged Facts’ survey analysis suggests that sleep disturbance sufferers are much less likely than pain sufferers to take either OTC or prescription drugs to treat their condition. And yet OTC and prescription sleep remedies do the job: disturbance sufferers who take medication to treat their condition report high rates of relief.

Although pain medication must clear those hurdles, the difference may result in part from stigma associated with addiction and/or side effects that extends even to natural products such as melatonin. But it goes beyond that. According to Packaged Facts’ Sleep Management in the U.S., fully four out of 10 “troubled sleepers” letting the issue work out on its own as their preferred approach to managing their sleep problem. As would be expected, outcomes were influenced by type and severity of the sleep condition. Nevertheless, industry players could improve consumer education on sleep disorders to increase awareness of and solutions for troubled sleepers who have either less severe or less frequent sleep disturbance symptoms.

Sleep disturbances can also be treated with a wide variety of behavioral change methods that also generate a high likelihood of relief. For example, insomnia suffers are apt to incorporate these methods into their preferred approach to managing their sleep problem, such as exercise (used by 45%), relaxation techniques (32%) and stress relief (31%) (likelihood of use is also influenced by source of diagnosis).

This wide ambit of legitimate approaches to sleep disturbance—on top of drug addiction and side effects concerns—helps explain why usage penetration rates for taking OTC and prescription drugs for sleep-related conditions have remained relatively consistent during 2007-2016, and the percentage of adults taking OTC pain relievers for sleeplessness has treaded water during 2007-2016. Here, too, consumer education may hold the key to assuring consumers that OTC and prescription sleep remedies not only do the job but are also safe (natural remedies are not immune: only 23% of adults trust homeopathic medicine). Innovating by blending a broader spectrum of functional and holistic benefits into these medications may also grow sales, especially since sleep disturbances are often a function of other conditions and ailments.

-- by David Morris