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Taking Sleep Aids May Increase Risk of Dying

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risk of dying may increase with use of sleep aids Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock

You have been staying up late two nights in a row working from home finishing office work.

There’s a big presentation coming up tomorrow morning and you want to get good sleep.

After half an hour of tossing and turning in bed, you decide to take a sleeping pill to aid you to restful slumber.

How convenient life is with these little medical aids. Or is it?

Recent study conducted by researchers at the Scripps Clinic showed that people using sleeping pills fairly regularly were at a 4.6 times higher risk of death than those who did not use the sleeping medications.

The research also discovered during the course of the study that regular usage of sleeping pills significantly raised a person’s chances of developing cancers. (1)

This finding has served as a warning to the medical fraternity and the pharmaceutical industry for prescribing and selling these drugs instead of finding a better alternative.

It is to be noted that the sales in the sleeping pills segment of the pharmaceutical industry increased by 23 percent in the past half-decade, generating an yearly sale of 2 billion dollars!

According to lead author of the study, Daniel F. Kripke, MD, of the Viterbi Family Sleep Center at Scripps Health in San Diego, “What our study shows is that sleeping pills are hazardous to your health and might cause death by contributing to the occurrence of cancer, heart disease and other ailments.” (2)

What was most surprising in the study was the discovery of drugs that were thought to be safer than older drugs due to their short action time turned out to be the most harmful.

They were also linked to the greatest increase in the risk of mortality and cancer. The drugs are zolpidem sold under the brand name of Ambien and, temazepam sold as Restoril.

The study observed that the risk of death was high, even for adult patients who only had anything between 1-18 sleeping pills a year. These patients were 3.6 times more likely to have fatal outcomes than those who did not take the pills.

The other finding of the study about the probability of developing cancer was equally shocking. It was discovered that rates of new cancers were 35 percent higher in patients prescribed and using a minimum of 132 hypnotic doses a year, than those who did not take the pills. (3)

According to the co-author of the study, Lawrence E. Kline, DO, who is medical director of the Viterbi Family Sleep Center, “It is important to note that our results are based on observational data, so even though we did everything we could to ensure their validity, it's still possible that other factors explain the associations. We hope our work will spur additional research in this area using information from other populations.” (4)

However, the findings of this study makes one thing clear. The medical fraternity should find safer and better alternatives for patients who suffer from sleep deprivation.

The authors of the study recommended that the focus of treatment for patients of insomnia should be on cognitive therapy where they are taught the nature of sleep, circadian rhythm and techniques of relaxation.

The patients should be educated on developing good sleeping habits in terms of ambience, posture, clothing, night-time diet, etc.

Even problems such as depression which result in insomnia, should be treated with therapy rather than taking the easy route of prescribing pills.


1. Higher Death Risk With Sleeping Pills; Science Daily News; Web May 2012;

2. Sleeping pills pose added death risk for obese patients; amednews.com; Web May 2012;

3. Sleeping pills linked to death risk; NHS Choices; Web May 2012;

4. Scripps Study Finds Higher Death Risk With Sleeping Pills; Scripps; Web May 2012;

Abstract of the technical report may be accessed at:

1. Hypnotics' association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study; BMJ Open; Web May 2012;


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books Migraines for the Informed Woman – Tips From A Sufferer: ISBN: 978-81-291-1517-1 (Publisher: Rupa & Co. URL: http://www.amazon.com/Migraines-Informed-Woman-Tips-Sufferer/dp/8129115174/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298990756&sr=1-2), Mentor Your Mind – Tested Mantras For The Busy Woman: ISBN: 978-81-207-5973-2 (Publisher: Sterling Publishers; URL: http://www.amazon.com/Mentor-Your-Mind-Tested-Mantras/dp/8120759737/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316063179&sr=8-1) and the upcoming Women’s Complete Fitness Guide (Publisher: Hay House India).

She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites.

She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health. Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation. Please visit www.mamtasingh.com/

Reviewed June 27, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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