Some 15.3m prescriptions were handed out in 2010/11, compared with 14.5m in 2007/08, according to NHS figures obtained by the Co-operative Pharmacy.
A freedom of information request revealed health trusts spent £49.2m on the drugs in 2010/11, up from £42m three years previously – an increase of more than 17%.
The highest number of prescriptions for sleeping pills were dispensed in the north-west, which spent more than £8.5m on almost 2.5m sleeping medication items.
Zoplicone was given to more than 5.2m patients nationally, making it the most popular sleeping tablet.
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