Thursday, September 9, 2010

Study Links Sleeping Pills to Mortality

Sleeping pills lengthen your slumber and may shorten your life, a Canadian report claims. The 12-year study linked hypnotic class sleep drugs and anti-anxiety medications with long-term mortality.

Consumption of sleeping pills or anxiety relieving medications was associated with a 36 percent higher death risk, the study concluded. Respondents to a large Canadian National Survey who said they used the medications at least once a month had a mortality rate of 15.7 percent. Those who said did not use the medications had a rate of 10.5 percent. The results were controlled to person risk factors like tobacco use, depression and physical health.

The study offers no clear explanation of the findings. The results bare resemblance to a study published in the September issue of the journal SLEEP that investigated a possible link between insomnia and long-term death risk. It reported five times as many middle-aged male insomnia patients died over the 14-year study length compared with healthy subjects.

Could the elevated mortality rates associated with sleeping pills be due to long-term insomnia? It is not a stretch to conclude a many of the people who regularly use sleeping pills over an extended period of time also have long-term insomnia.

Dr. Geneviève Belleville, the lead author of the sleeping pill study, offers an alternate explanation. Dr. Belleville speculates the sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications may cause accidents and promote suicides.

Sleeping pills and anxiolytics impact reaction time, alertness and coordination. Under these conditions, the risk of injury from a fall or an automotive accident increases.

A review shows sleeping drugs may increase the risk of suicide as many as seven times over. Central nervous system inhibitors found in the medications may alter a person’s judgment, making some people more likely to carry out suicidal ideations.

The AASM reports hypnotic class drugs are safe and effect short-term solutions to insomnia when used as directed. Go to bed immediately after taking sleep medications and avoid physical activity, driving, or operating heavy machinery. Never take more than the recommended dose, for risk of serious complications.

Dr. Belleville recommends insomnia patients consider the alternative of cognitive behavioral therapy, the most effective solution to long-term insomnia. The approach helps you change actions or thoughts that hurt your ability to sleep and promote a healthy pattern of sleep.

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