More than 28,000 sleeping pill prescriptions were issued in Hawke's Bay last year.
A local counsellor says medication often provides temporary relief for people unable to function due to sleep deprivation.
"I think it's better to take the medication for a short period of time to break the cycle of not sleeping," Havelock North counsellor Sandy Ross said.
"Nobody can function very well without sleep."
Figures from the Government drug-buying agency Pharmac show 28,650 prescriptions were handed out in the Hawke's Bay District Health board region in the 12 months to June 30.
Nationally nearly 680,000 sleeping pill prescriptions were doled out in the financial year.
In Northland 30,8400 prescriptions were issued and 36,780 in the Bay of Plenty.
Ms Ross said it was important to look at issues causing insomnia.
"Medication works well in conjunction with counselling and psychotherapy to alleviate the symptoms so that you can have the energy to address whatever the underlying issues are."
Tranx - an alcohol and drug addiction service which deals specifically with sleeping-medication dependency - says New Zealand's high prescription numbers are concerning.
While Pharmac figures show prescription numbers are similar to those five years ago (680,950 in 2007/08), data recording methods and restrictions around prescribing medication have since changed - masking the actual increase.
Tranx manager Shaz Picard said long-term use of sleeping pills was risky.
"If somebody's using it on a daily basis there's more chance of them becoming addicted.
"We learn how to sleep, and if you're taking a drug that gives you a black-out, knock-out, zonk of a sleep then after six months or so your body doesn't know how to go to sleep because [the drugs] make it go to sleep."
However, if sleeping medication was used appropriately, it could provide a huge amount of relief for those suffering insomnia or stress, Ms Picard said.
People who were also suffering from tremendous grief and unable to sleep might also benefit from sleep medication, she said.
"But, what happens is people get on the gravy train and they're still taking them [long after the event]."
While sleeping pills provided a "quick fix", people had to deal with their underlying issues if they were to tackle sleeplessness.
Pharmac medical director Dr Peter Moodie said a steady increase in prescription figures, for all medications including sleeping tables, was expected each year.
"There has been a growth and it's a growth that we watch and we haven't had alarm bells ringing."
Population growth, greater access to healthcare services and better data collection had all contributed to to higher prescription numbers, Dr Moodie said.
Side effects of sleeping medication included dullness and the risk of dependency.