"For those people who suffer from fatigue and/or daytime somnolence -- being tired and feeling sleepy -- it is important for them to seek treatment from a board-certified sleep specialist," he said. "With proper diagnosis and treatment, these patients will have an improved quality of life."
Sleep-aid drugs have, however, become a new focus for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over concerns that they may impact people's ability to drive the next morning. New evidence appears to confirm what many people have long suspected: that the effects of sleep drugs can persist well into the next day.
Last month, the FDA rejected an application for suvorexant, a new sleep drug from Merck, in part because tests showed that some people had difficulty driving the day after taking the drug.
The FDA said it was taking a closer look at all sleep medicines on the market and will ask manufacturers to conduct more extensive driving tests for all new sleep drugs.
For many people, insomnia may be tied to other chronic conditions that also need to be treated, another expert said.
Sleep medications are only part of the story, said Dr. Alon Avidan, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Many patients with insomnia also suffer from other problems, such as depression, chronic pain and mental disorders, he added.
"We should be looking at insomnia as not just managing the insomnia itself, but also treating the underlying disease," he said.
"But treating the underlying condition doesn't mean the insomnia will go away," he said. "What we generally do is we treat the insomnia separately from ... the underlying condition. When we treat both conditions, the end result is much better than addressing one symptom alone."
Other highlights of the report included:
- Whites (4.7 percent) were more likely to use sleep aids than blacks (2.5 percent) or Mexican-Americans (2 percent).
- People who used sleep aids the most were those who slept less than five hours (6 percent) and those who slept at least nine (5.3 percent). The researchers used the National Sleep Foundation's suggested guideline of seven hours of sleep as the minimum amount adults need for optimal performance.
- One in six adults diagnosed with a sleep disorder and one in eight with trouble sleeping said they use sleep aids.