Sleeping pills can increase risk of death

US researchers tracked more than 10,500 sleeping pill users over an average of 2.5 years, and compared all-cause mortality to that of 23,600 matched controls who were not prescribed hypnotic agents.

People who took sleeping pills had a more than fourfold increased risk of dying overall, but the researchers also noted a dose response relationship.

“Among users in the highest tertiles of annualised dosages, the hazard ratios for death were 5.3, 5.7 and 6.6, respectively, for all hypnotics, zolpidem alone and temazepam alone,” the authors said. “Those in the top third were also 35% more likely to develop a new major cancer.”

Even sleeping pill users with the lowest intake – less than 18 doses per year – still had a 3.6-fold increased risk of death, they found.

Consensus was developing that cognitive behavioural therapy may be more successful than hypnotics and given the ‘meagre benefits’ of the drugs, their mortality risk

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