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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingA new study shows that the use of sleeping pills is on the rise in America, and not just among adults. The use of sleeping pills among children and young adults rose 85-percent from 2000 to 2004.
The New York Times/Medco Health Solutions Study shows at every age, girls and women were more likely than boys and men to take sleeping pills. The New York Times study also showed 15-percent of people under age 20 who received sleeping pills were also being given drugs to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
This study looked at prescription sleeping aids, not just the stuff you buy at the drug store. And though just a fraction of the kids studied were using them, that number is growing.
With 7 am classes, activities after school, and technology 24-7 some kids simply aren't getting enough sleep.
Dr. Philip Pearl, Neurologist, Children's National Medical Center: "The kids are up with the instant messaging, and the emailing, and the web sites, and the video games..."
A study by Medco -- a managed care company that fills prescriptions -- found the fastest-growing group of prescription sleeping pill users are children 10 to 19-years old, up 85 percent in four years. Dr. Philip Pearl points to the growing number of sleep aids on the market.
Dr. Philip Pearl: "The question is: are they safe, and should we be using them? There's no safety data on any of these sleeping medications for children."
The actual number of kids using sleeping pills is small -- well under one percent. But the sharp increase has researchers baffled. They blame some of it on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD drugs can cause insomnia.
Dr. Robert Epstein, Medco Health Solutions: "So whether we have a situation here where kids are kind of hyperactive and needing to get to sleep, or whether they're taking medicine for their hyperactivity and it's making them have trouble getting to sleep, we're not sure."
But that only explains about 15 percent of the cases. The National Sleep Foundation recommends eight and a half to nine hours of sleep a night for adolescents, but surveys have found most teens actually sleep between seven and eight hours a night.
And it can be a serious safety problem. Drowsiness or fatigue is a principle cause in at least 100-thousand traffic accidents each year. Young drivers age 25 or under cause more than one-half of the fall-asleep crashes.