New concerns over sleeping pills

It is already known that sleeping pills should be used at the lowest possible dose and for a limited time, usually less than two weeks. Treating long-term insomnia, however, requires lifestyle changes and some patience. Studies show that the prolonged use of sleep aids only slightly increases the quality and duration of sleep, but that in addition it exposes users to various adverse effects, including an increased risk of falls and car accidents.

It is already known that sleeping pills should be used at the lowest possible dose and for a limited time, usually less than two weeks. Treating long-term insomnia, however, requires lifestyle changes and some patience. Studies show that the prolonged use of sleep aids only slightly increases the quality and duration of sleep, but that in addition it exposes users to various adverse effects, including an increased risk of falls and car accidents.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of over 10,000 sleeping pill users and compared them to those of over 20,000 individuals who do not use these products. The analysis revealed that individuals who use sleep aids regularly were five times as likely as non-users to die of any cause over a follow-up period of two and a half years.

This type of analysis can only observe a link between two events; it cannot determine without the shadow of a doubt that one causes the other. However, the new data adds weight to previous studies that had also concluded that the use of sleep aids is associated with an increased risk of death, including one study conducted in Quebec. It is therefore best to use caution when using sleeping pills, and this applies to both older types and newer ones. The latest generations of sleep aids are more commonly prescribed, since they are associated with a lower risk of daytime drowsiness or dependency. Many clinicians are not convinced, however, and feel these newer products should be used with just as much caution as their predecessors.

If you use sleeping pills, don’t panic! If you’ve been using them for a long time, you mustn’t stop taking them suddenly. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist, as they can help you determine the best way to treat your insomnia.

You will always obtain the best long-term results by developing good sleep-promoting habits. Exercise regularly, but not at night, avoid the computer and television before bed, choose calming activities such as reading, don’t nap, and avoid caffeine. These habits can all help improve the quality of your sleep. Questions? Speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

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