Hypnotics' Association With Mortality Or Cancer: A Matched Cohort Study, British Medical Journal, Feb 2012
It wasn't a small study:
"Subjects (mean age 54 years) were 10 529 patients who received hypnotic prescriptions and 23 676 matched controls with no hypnotic prescriptions, followed for an average of 2.5 years."Hypnotics are drugs whose primary function is to induce sleep. They include the benzodiazapines [diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Aivan)] and non-benzodiazepines [zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zaleplon (Sonata)].
Sophie Ramsey at BMJ wrote a nice summary:
Prescription Sleeping Pills May Raise The Risk Of An Early Death
"What’s particularly notable about these findings is that there was no level of sleeping pill use that wasn’t linked to a higher risk of dying during the study."Indeed, just a couple pills a year raised risk:
"Compared with people prescribed no sleeping pills, those prescribed one to 18 pills in a year were over 3.5 times more likely to die during the study. Those prescribed 18 to 132 pills in a year had more than four times the risk, and those prescribed more than 132 pills had more than five times the risk."And:
"The researchers did a good job of taking into account many other factors that might have increased people’s risk, including their age, whether they smoked, their body mass index (BMI), and whether they had other health conditions, including heart problems, diabetes, lung problems, dementia, and kidney disease."There's a terrible catch-22 here. Not sleeping raises the risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and accidents. Now, taking sleeping pills is being linked to at least some of these conditions. And insomnia appears to be a silent epidemic; Americans filled some 60 million prescriptions for sleeping pills last year. The sleep hygiene guideposts like reducing caffeine, going to bed at regular times, in quiet and darkened environments, getting exercise, eating and drinking in moderation, and of course trying not to think about work or school or money or your ailing spouse/parents/children/friends or the MRI you have scheduled or anything that might disturb sleep, don't seem all that effective.
What could be contributing to all this sleeplessness? Or is shorter sleep duration as one ages just the natural order of things?