People who use prescription sleeping pills to fall asleep at night may be at greater risk for early death and cancer, according to a new study published this week in the British Medical Journal. The study found that adults who take sleeping pills – even as few as 18 over the course of a year – were more likely to die early or be diagnosed with cancer than those who do not take sleeping pills.
The report leaves some researchers scratching their heads. Sleeping pills can serve an important purpose for those suffering from insomnia or a sleep disorder. Untreated sleep problems can prevent people from functioning normally during the day, and can also lead to life threatening conditions including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. But is a good night’s sleep worth it considering the risks uncovered by this latest report?
Researchers say more study is required to determine if there really is a problem with sleep aids, or if the problems lie in the types of people who seek out prescription medication to help them sleep. What the study lacked is information about whether patients were evaluated by a sleep specialist, or if they were undergoing any other types of treatment for underlying health problems, which could weigh into the death risk factor.
Furthermore, sleep problems are often symptoms of other mental and physical problems, and those who are prescribed sleeping medications often have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and other problems.
Many doctors say that sleeping pills are generally safe, but they do carry side effects, including drowsiness, impaired judgment, depression and heart problems. And if they are used incorrectly – in too large doses or combined with alcohol or other sedatives – they can be deadly.
The important thing is that patients discuss the risks and benefits of taking sleeping pills with their doctor to determine if using pills is the right choice for them.
Source: ABC New