A recent study found that 10,529 patients who received prescriptions for hypnotic medications such as Ambien, Lunesta and Restoril for poor sleep had a substantially increased risk of death compared to 23,676 patients who matched the controls who were not prescribed hypnotics.
Test subjects had an average age of 54 years and were monitored for two and a half years between January 2002 and January 2007. Results were adjusted so that factors such as age, BMI, ethnicity, gender, marital status, alcohol consumption, smoking and prior cancer had no influence on the results.
Dosages vs hazard ratios were as follows:
- 0.4-18 doses per year - hazard of death increased by a factor of 3.6
- 18-132 doses per year - hazard of death increased by a factor of 4.43
- More than 132 doses per year - hazard of death increased by a factor of 5.32
Those taking the highest doses of hypnotics were also at an elevated risk for incident cancer by a factor of 1.35.
The study didn't look solely at the consumption of sleeping pills such as Ambien, Lunesta and Restoril - the full list included hypnotics such as zolpidem, eszopiclone, temazepam, zaleplon, other benzodiazepines, sedative antihistamines and barbiturates.
This latest research doesn't take us completely by surprise - a Canadian study from 2011 determined that sleeping pills may increase the risk of premature death. That being said, we were surprised that such a small annual dose of hypnotics can increase the risk of death more than threefold.
For some, sleeping pills are unavoidable - however this research demonstrates why they are not a long term solution (if you are looking for a natural insomnia remedy, we recommend Serenite-Plus). Remember - if you're concerned about the medication you're currently taking, speak with your doctor. Never change your dosage, stop taking any medication or start taking a new form of medicine (natural or not) without talking to your doctor first.
Source: British Medical Journal
Last updated: July 18, 2012