Taking a sleeping pill once in a while may be not as innocent as it seems. A recent study showed that commonly used sleeping pills, used by millions of people worldwide, are associated with an increased risk of death. Now, that’s something that keeps you awake!
Over a two-and-a-half-year period, leading researcher Daniel Kripke from the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Centre in La Jolla, California, followed the lives of 10,529 people, who were prescribed a range of sleeping pills such as temazepam and zolpidem. The death rates were compared with more than 23,600 others with matching age, state of health and other factors, who had not used any sleeping pills. The average age was 54.
The researchers found that even people who took relative low doses of sleep pills – fewer than 18 pills a year – were three times more likely to die than those prescribed with no sleeping pills. The risk of dying increased in relation to the dose. Those who had taken the most pills – an average of 9 a week – were more than 5 times more likely to die than non-users. Also, they had a 35 percent higher risk to be diagnosed with cancer. This association was not explained by pre-existing poor health, the data showed.
Still, while the study shows an association between sleeping pills and death, the researchers point out that it does not prove the pills are the cause. But they argue that their findings back up previous research showing an increased risk of death among users of sleeping pill. “Agreement is beginning to build that alternatives to sleeping pills for the treatment of insomnia may be warranted.”
Kripke, D., Langer, R., & Kline, L. (2012). Hypnotics’ association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study BMJ Open, 2 (1) DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000850
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