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Sleep aid use increases in the Mid-South

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you have problems sleeping and pop a pill to help, you’re not alone. Millions of people nationwide depend on sleeping pills, and doctors say the number is growing in the Mid-South.

Take Edie Marshal, who says she tosses and turns because of her age.

“A friend’s doctor recommended it to him, and my friend told me about it,” she said.

Edie swears by melatonin, a more natural sleeping aid.

“It relaxes me, it helps me sleep through the night,” she said.

CJ Kirkland says sleeping pills helped her raise her son.

“I had my son. He wakes up at the crack of dawn no matter what,” she said. “I took it to adjust my sleep schedule to match his.”

Memphis sleep specialist William Mariencheck says more and more people are coming to his office with all sorts of reasons they can’t catch some Zs, from chronic conditions to tragedies to a busy lifestyle.

“I see a lot of patients with insomnia, probably more in the last few years than we have seen previously,” he said. “A lot of patients are trying to go to bed at one in the morning and get up at five.”

The CDC says nearly nine million people count on pills to get a good night sleep.

“Most doctors don’t like to prescribe sleeping pills,” Mariencheck said. “There’s a great pressure to do so, thinking that will solve the problem with lack of sleep.”

Mariencheck said sedatives can be very dangerous, because they stay in your body longer than you think. Some people say they’ve slept walk or been drowsy the next day, dramatically increasing their chances of getting hurt.

Because of the risks, the FDA recommended doctors lower dosages of sleep-aids such as Ambien and Lunesta. Not to mention, medical journal BMJ reports people who take pills long-term can get cancer and Alzheimer’s, and are more likely to die at an early age.

Doctors say over-the counter remedies like Zzzquil aren’t as risky, especially if you’re not relying on them. People we spoke with say they haven’t noticed any side effects.

Mariencheck said it’s best to avoid pills all together, and change your sleeping habits.

“When they go to bed, turn off the television set or put the dog outside and in another room,” he said.

Simple changes like that could help you get more shut-eye.