A recent analysis of national survey data reveals that over 1.6 million American adults use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat insomnia or trouble sleeping 1 according to scientists at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health. The data came from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2002 the NHIS, an in-person, annual health survey, included over 31,000 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older. A CAM supplement to the survey asked about the use of 27 types of CAM therapies, as well as a variety of medical conditions for which CAM may be used, including insomnia or trouble sleeping. Survey results show that over 17 percent of adults reported trouble sleeping or insomnia in the past 12 months. Of those with insomnia or trouble sleeping, 4.5 percent—more than 1.6 million people—used some form of CAM to treat their condition.
“These data offer some new insights regarding the prevalence of insomnia or trouble sleeping in the United States and the types of CAM therapies people use to treat these conditions,” said Dr. Margaret A. Chesney, Acting Director of NCCAM. “They will help us develop new research questions regarding the safety and efficacy of the CAM therapies being used.”
Those using CAM to treat insomnia or trouble sleeping were more likely to use biologically based therapies (nearly 65 percent), such as herbal therapies, or mind-body therapies (more than 39 percent), such as relaxation techniques. A majority of people who used herbal or relaxation therapies for their insomnia reported that they were helpful. The two most common reasons people gave for using CAM to treat insomnia were they thought it would be interesting to try (nearly 67 percent) and they thought CAM combined with a conventional treatment would be helpful (nearly 64 percent).
In addition to looking at the data on CAM use and insomnia, the researchers also looked at the connection between trouble sleeping and five significant health conditions: diabetes, hypertension, congestive heart failure, anxiety and depression, and obesity. They found that insomnia or trouble sleeping is highly associated with four of the five conditions: hypertension, congestive heart failure, anxiety and depression, and obesity.
Other key points reported in the analysis include:
- Nearly 61 percent reporting trouble sleeping were women versus about 39 percent men.
- Insomnia peaks in middle age (45-64 years old) and a second increase appears in people 85 and older.
- African Americans and Asians appear less likely to report trouble sleeping or insomnia than whites.
- Those with higher education also are less likely to report insomnia or trouble sleeping.
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