What about sleeping pills?

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People should avoid using most types of ‘sleeping pill’ for longer than 4 weeks. Sleep medications should be temporary.

That’s the standard instruction for best medical practice in most of Europe and North America. Official medical treatment guidelines recommend limited use only.

But, in reality, doctors and patients usually ignore this advice! More than half of patients use their prescribed sleeping pills for longer than than 4 weeks, and 20% continue beyond a year.  

Patients say they keep taking sleeping pills because their doctor prescribes them — and doctors say they keep prescribing because patients insist, even demand, their sleeping pills.

Even though guidelines recommend patients should first try non-drug ways to help insomnia, doctors say alternative approaches are often unavailable or ineffective. 

So doctors wonder, how else can they help patients sleep? Medications ‘work’ and they're quick — so writing a prescription is easy. 

But here’s the Big Problem: Dozens of research studies show that the most popular sleep medications carry risk of serious side effects. That’s why so many medical guidelines warn against prolonged use!

For example:

A 2018 study of the records of 260,000 people showed increased Alzheimer’s dementia among chronic users of benzodiazepines or z-drugs. Earlier studies have showed similar findings. 

[Common benzodiazepines: Restoril, Halcion, Xanax, Dalmane, Ativan, Klonopin, Prosom]  

[Common z-drugs: Lunesta, Imovane, Sonata, Ambien.]

A 2020 study reviewed 28 earlier research studies — a total of more than 340,000 patients. The studies showed increased cancer with chronic use of benzodiazepines and z-drugs.

Still other studies have showed increased falls, fractures and accidents, infections, and greater mortality for users of benzodiazepines.

In 2019, a report by Public Health England, an agency of the British government, warned about the risk of addiction to prescription drugs — especially benzodiazepines and z-drugs.  

A Better Answer?

Fortunately, most women can find better sleep without having to swallow risky chemicals every night.

Let's consider some real solutions. We want to care for ourselves and support a healthy brain.

And, not surprisingly, better sleep helps us feel more optimistic too!

To your natural happiness!

Lucinda


Citations 

European guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of insomnia. Dieter Riemann, et al; Jnl of Sleep Research 2017

Hypnotics and the risks of dementia. James W. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(6):837.

Benzodiazepine use and risk of dementia: prospective population based study. Billioti De Gage S,  et al. BMJ. 2012

Association Between the Use of Hypnotics and the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease. Wonjeong Jeong et al; J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;

Management of Chronic Insomnia Disorder in Adults: A Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians. Qaseem A, et al; ; Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Jul 19


Use of sedative-hypnotics and the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia: A retrospective cohort study. Lee J, et al;  PLoS ONE 2018 Sep 24

Hypnotics and Risk of Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Tzu-Rong Peng, et al;  Medicina (Kaunas). 2020 Oct 

Benzodiazepines and Z-Drugs: An Updated Review of Major Adverse Outcomes Reported on in Epidemiologic Research, Jaden Brandt • Christine Leong ; Drugs R D (2017) 17:493–507 

Dependence and withdrawal associated with some prescribed medicines: an evidence review. Taylor S, et al; Public Health England, London. 2019.