Consumer Reports: Sleep issues common, poll finds

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According to a survey of Consumer Reports' readers, the most common problem cited among all respondents was trouble staying asleep, reported by 57 percent of Consumer Reports' 26,451 subscribers. Of those, 1 in 3 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).

CR analyzed the responses of more than 15,000 people who reported having problems sleeping three 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."

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 potential 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.

For those looking to upgrade their mattresses along with their sleep habits in hopes of a better night's rest, the CR survey found that 75 percent of those who bought a new mattress said 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.

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:

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, 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.

Haggling helps. Mattresses have hefty markups. More expensive models have even higher markups. While only 34 percent of respondents tried to negotiate the price at the store, those who did saved a median of $115. Always factor in delivery and haul-away costs.

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