Risks of taking sedatives for insomnia in older people may be greater than the benefits

November 10, 2005

For older people, the risks outweigh the benefits of taking sleeping pills and other sedatives, say researchers in this week's BMJ.

Insomnia can often affect the quality of life for older people and between 5% and 33% of older people in the UK are prescribed sleeping pills such as benzodiazepine.

But in an analysis of 24 studies carried out between 1966 and 2003, researchers found that the adverse results for older people taking sedatives - such as dizziness, loss of balance, falls, and disorientation - were statistically significant enough to make them think non-drug treatments could be a better approach to tackling insomnia.

The 24 studies included 2,417 participants in total and looked at the effects of sedative hypnotics (sedatives), including over the counter medications such as antihistamines, and prescription only drugs like benzodiazepine. Research only included cases where people who were 60 and above had been taking them for five consecutive nights, compared to people taking placebos.

Effects such as dizziness or loss of balance - psychomotor-type side-effects - were reported in 13 studies (1,016 participants). Seven of the 59 psychomotor effects that were reported in these studies were serious events - six falls and one car crash.

But the researchers also found there were many potential benefits for people taking sedatives such as improved quality of sleep (more sound uninterrupted sleep), ease of getting to sleep and total sleep time.

On balance however, they argue that although treatment with sedative hypnotics improves aspects of sleep, the risk of adverse effects rises with such treatment. There are also indicators that older patients are more than twice as likely to experience an adverse event as they are to gain a better quality of sleep from such sedatives. But they stress that this comparison is only a rough indicator because more studies contributed information on harmful events than on sleep benefits.

Improvements in sleep with sedative use are statistically significant, but the size of the effect is small, say the authors. 'In people over 60, the benefits of these drugs may not justify the increased risk,' they conclude.


Related Insomnia Articles from Brightsurf:

Insomnia treatment offers relief
Insomnia causing sleepless nights, daytime fatigue and poor health outcomes is a cycle worth busting, experts say, with depression, anxiety and stress a common co-occurrence.

Reduction in insomnia symptoms associated with non-invasive neurotechnology
For people with chronic insomnia, a good night's sleep is elusive.

The neurons that connect stress, insomnia, and the immune system
Researchers have pinpointed the circuit in the brain that is responsible for sleepless nights in times of stress--and it turns out that circuit does more than make you toss and turn.

Refined carbs may trigger insomnia, finds study
Women who consumed a diet high in added sugars and refined carbohydrates had a greater risk of developing insomnia, a new study by researchers at Columbia University has found.

Disturbed childhood can lead to adult insomnia
Parents should help their children with better sleep patterns, along with any problem behavioural issues, because this can lead to severe insomnia in middle age, a groundbreaking new study shows.

Study compares different strategies for treating insomnia
New research published in Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing indicates that for treating insomnia, stimulus control therapy (which reassociates the bed with sleepiness instead of arousal) and sleep restriction therapy are effective, and it is best to use them individually rather than together.

Brain cells involved in insomnia identified
An international team of researchers has identified, for the first time, the cell types, areas and biological processes in the brain that mediate the genetic risk of insomnia.

Mice sleeping fitfully provide clues to insomnia
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis -- working with mice with sleep problems similar to those experienced by people with the genetic disease neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) -- believe the animals will help shed light on insomnia linked to NF1 or other factors.

Insomnia has many faces
Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience revealed that there are five types of insomnia.

Light pollution may cause insomnia in older adults
A new study is the first population-based investigation to report a significant association between artificial, outdoor light exposure at night and insomnia, as indicated by older adults' use of hypnotic drugs.

Read More: Insomnia News and Insomnia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.