6. The Problem of Sleeping Pills

Bedroom pink grey dreamstime_xxl_117232998

The over-use of sleeping pills is a significant medical problem. And it’s a problem that’s especially harmful to women 50+. A survey from the American CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) [1] showed that nearly 14% of women over 45 took sleeping pills on most days of the previous month.  

For decades, medicine has known about serious risks associated with sleeping pills — even while many trusting women have damaged their health with these drugs.

Since at least 2002, various research studies have shown an increase in dementia associated with the long-term use of benzodiazepines (the most common type of sleeping pill). [2]  Subsequent studies also show increased dementia risk with the newer types of sleeping pills (the ‘Z-drugs’).[3]  Note: The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

And dementia is not the only risk associated with sleeping pills. Pioneering work by Dr. Daniel Kripke investigated the increased mortality, and increases in cancer and infection associated with taking sleeping pills. His 2012 study concluded: 

Receiving hypnotic prescriptions was associated with greater than threefold increased hazards of death even when prescribed fewer than 18 pills/year. This association held in separate analyses for several commonly used hypnotics and for newer shorter- acting drugs. 

Hypnotics' association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study

Daniel Kripke et al. BMJOpen 2012

Dr. Kripke is emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California. His work is not an outlier — other researchers have documented similar findings of greater mortality, increased cancer, infection, accidents, and dementia amongst people taking sleeping pills.


Dr. Kripke’s website was last edited in 2019. However, research continues to detail the risks of sleeping pills.


A 2021 research paper concluded: “Sleeping pill use was related to an increased risk of chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease.” [4]

A 2023 research paper concluded “Frequent sleep medication use was associated with an increased risk of dementia in white older adults.” [5]

Let’s remember that older women are the demographic group that most commonly takes sleeping pills. These statistics could represent hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women whose health has been seriously impaired simply because they wanted better sleep! Most didn’t realize the risks involved. Nobody told them.

Next, we’ll look at why sleeping pills can damage women’s health. Hint: sleeping pills don’t actually give you natural sleep!

We’ll also check out optimistic evidence showing that many people sleep better after they give up sleeping pills!

And let's ask why sleeping pills are still so widely prescribed. [Hint: Research shows they aren't as effective as advertising claims. Why are they so popular?)

To your natural happiness!



[1] Sleep Medication Use in Adults Aged 18 and Over: United States, 2020 

 Cynthia Reuben et al; NCHS Data Brief No. 462 January 2023

[2]  Benzodiazepine use and risk of dementia: A nested case-control study.

Lagnaoui R, et al. J Clin Epidemiol. 2002

[3] Risk of Dementia in Patients with Insomnia and Long- term Use of Hypnotics: A Population-based Retrospective Cohort Study

Pin-Liang Chen et al; PLOS 2012 

[4] Taking Sleeping Pills and the Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease: A Nationwide Population-Based Retrospective Cohort Study 

Chen-Yi Liao et al; Frontiers in Pharmacology 2021

[5] Race Differences in the Association Between Sleep Medication Use and Risk of Dementia 

Yue Leng et al; J Alzheimers Dis. 2023