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Release Date: 07/05/2012

CR Survey: Unemployed Americans More Likely To Suffer From Sleep Problems than Those with Jobs

Staying asleep is the most common problem among all respondents; Survey reveals other sleep troubles & effectiveness of sleep treatments

August 2012 CoverYONKERS, NY — In addition to searching for full-time work, some unemployed Americans may also be looking for a good night’s rest.  According to a new survey of Consumer Reports’ readers, unemployed respondents were more likely to say they had trouble falling and staying asleep than those with jobs?69 percent and 59 percent respectively.

Employment status aside, the most common problem cited among all respondents was trouble staying asleep, reported by 57 percent of Consumer Reports’ 26,451 subscribers.  Of those, one in three woke up three or more times during a typical night. When problem sleepers were asked what was keeping them up at night, “work-related stress” was the most common response (47 percent) followed by health problems (28 percent) and financial woes (22 percent).

“For most people, getting to sleep isn’t as much of an issue as staying asleep is,” said Jamie Hirsh, senior associate editor for Consumer Reports.  “Some readers found great success with medication and others said that changes in their lifestyle helped them to sleep through the night.”

The complete results of Consumer Reports’ survey about sleep problems and treatments, along with findings from its new survey on mattress satisfaction, can be found online at www.ConsumerReports.org and in the August issue of Consumer Reports, which hits newsstands on Thursday, July 5.

Consumer Reports’ survey also revealed that women and obese people were more likely to report sleep problems than others.  While almost 60 percent of respondents fell into the “insomniac” category, the survey also delivered some good news: Most problem sleepers reported finding at least one sleep treatment that helped.

Treating Sleep Problems

Consumer Reports analyzed the responses of more than 15,500 people who reported having problems sleeping 3 or more nights per week? including those who used medication and those who tried alternative methods to treat sleep problems and rated their effectiveness.  Prescription sleep aids were found to be the most helpful. But a number of people who tried alternative methods, such as regular exercise, meditation, yoga and deep-breathing exercises, said the methods helped “a lot.” This data suggests, at least for some insomniacs, that help is within reach without the side effects of medication.

Forty percent of problem sleepers said they had, at some point, tried over-the-counter sleep aids, and   30 percent took prescription medications.  Newer prescription sleeping pills, such as zolpidem (Ambien and generic) and eszopiclone (Lunesta), and older sleep drugs called  benzodiazepines,  such  as temazepam (Restoril and generic), received some of the highest ratings for helpfulness by survey respondents.  Almost half of readers who had tried prescription sleep drugs like zolpidem or over-the-counter medications like Tylenol PM reported side effects such as next-day drowsiness.

Given the side effects of sleep medication, Consumer Reports recommends trying behavioral steps, such as waking up at the same time every day, taking time to unwind before bedtime and getting exercise during the day, particularly in the morning, for those looking to improve their sleep cycles. Aside from regular exercise, which 41 percent of problem sleepers had tried, few people overall had tried alternative sleep therapies. Of those who had tried alternative methods, a number of respondents found body practices like meditation and yoga, white-noise machines and diet management to be helpful.

For those looking to upgrade their mattress along with their sleep habits in hopes of a better night’s rest, the Consumer Reports’ survey found that 75 percent of those who bought a new mattress said that it helped them sleep better. Respondents also found that paying more didn’t always translate into higher satisfaction, nor did buying from a major retailer.

Finding the Perfect Mattress Match

Comfort doesn’t have to cost you a lot. Nor does spending more guarantee a good night’s sleep. Lying down on the mattress for at least 10 minutes in the store remains the best way to find the right mattress, however, Consumer Reports also recommends the following advice for those shopping for a new mattress based on the experiences of its survey participants.

  • Memory foam and air beds satisfy. Subscribers who bought memory foam and inflatable air beds were more likely to tell Consumer Reports they were sleeping better than those who purchased traditional innersprings. Tempur-Pedic memory foam and Sleep Number air beds were most cited as improving sleep.

  • Price-matching offers are meaningless. Mattress makers offer some lines nationally, but when those brands are sold through major chains such as Macy’s, Sears, and Sleepy’s? they’re for lines exclusive to those chains. And each retailer usually gives the mattress a different name. As a result, it’s hard to compare mattresses so price guarantees really don’t guarantee much.

  • A new box spring isn’t a must. Though most respondents replaced their box spring with their mattress, roughly 80 percent of those who kept their old box spring reported that they were sleeping better after replacing just their mattress. So if the box spring isn’t broken and is still structurally sound, consider keeping it and saving several hundred dollars.

  • Haggling helps. Mattresses have hefty markups? that’s why 50 percent off “sales” are common. More expensive models have even higher markups. While only 34 percent of respondents tried to negotiate price at the store, those who did saved a median of $115, with almost a third saving $150 or more. Whether or not you haggle, never pay full price and always factor in delivery and haul-away costs.

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.  Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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