Sleeping Pills Linked to Premature Death

As a former long time sufferer of insomnia I know the importance of a good nights sleep.  Not being a big fan of pharmaceuticals I found relief simply by upping my intake of magnesium.  However, for those who worship at the feet of drug companies, chemically blended sleeping pills are the remedy of choice when the next day looms as too important to stumble through in a fog of fatigue.  It would be a dream come true if we could all be good sleepers. Admittedly, for many of us who are not good sleepers, to easily be able to get a sound 6-8 hours of deep sleep, sleeping pills are a help…or are they?

Many studies have shown that sleeping pills are usually of limited effectiveness, all have potential risks, and none have been tested for long-term safety. That’s why most of the pills have been approved only for short-term use. Now a study in the online journal BMJ Open has linked prescription sleeping pills to a surprisingly high risk of premature death.

The risk of dying over a 2.5-year period was four times higher among pill users, a finding that held up after the data were adjusted for many health and lifestyle factors. Even occasional users had a higher death rate, though the risk increased with more frequent use.

Keep in mind that this is not the first study linking sleeping pills to higher death rates. Many factors are involved. The drugs can cause falls and car crashes, even the next day, and may worsen depression. The study also found that people taking at least 130 pills a year had a 35 percent increased risk of cancer. But the cause of most of the excess deaths remains a mystery.

Though the researchers controlled for many variables, there may well be other things about pill takers that put them at risk. They may simply be in poorer health.  Many elderly persons simply do not need nearly as much sleep as younger people do.

If you take sleeping pills often, consult your doctor about lifestyle changes that may improve your sleep. In any case, take the smallest dose that works for you. Don’t drink if you plan to take a pill, and don’t drive the next morning, even if you don’t feel groggy.
No matter what the ads suggest, there is no “best” pill. Your goal should be to not need sleeping pills. Your doctor should not simply renew your prescription without discussing your progress and the possible side effects.

This study was observational and thus doesn’t prove that sleeping pills shorten lives.

Source: Berkeley Wellness Alerts


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