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Study Finds Link Between Sleeping Pills And Higher Death Risk

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Study Finds Link Between Sleeping Pills And Higher Death Risk

A new study led by scientists at Scripps Clinic suggests that the use of sleeping pills increases the risk of death by over 4 times, while also increasing the numbers of cancer cases. The study was funded by the Scripps Health Foundation and other philanthropic sources.

Published in the journal BMJ Open, the study has a major impact on a fast growing pharmaceutical segment. Only in the past few years, the pharmaceutical segment that deals with sleeping pills generated almost $2 billion in annual sales in the United States alone.

“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 diseases”, said Daniel F. Kripke, the main author of the study.

Dr. Kripke also says that this study has shown for the first time that most of the commonly used sleeping pills are associated with increased cancer risk and higher mortality rates. Tested medication included the commonly prescribed Ambien and Restoril, believed to be safer than other drugs until now.

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The study was conducted on two groups of patients. The first group was made from patients that received sleeping pills while the second group had patients that were not receiving any hypnotic drugs. Both groups contained patients of similar age, gender and health, thus removing any possible external influence.

The current research also shows that patients that were prescribed up to only 18 pills per year had a death risk of over 3 times higher than patients that weren’t taking any pills. Patients that participated in the study were all 18 years of age or older. Increased risk was discovered in all age groups. Cancer rates were discovered to be almost 35 percent higher in patients that were prescribed more than 132 sleeping pills over the entire year, compared to patients that did not take any hypnotic medication.

Approximately 40,000 patients were studied using data that has been stored into electronic medical records in the past decade. The records belonging to 10,531 patients that were taking prescribed hypnotic medication were compared to a control group formed by 23,674 patients that weren’t taking any sleeping pills. Information was collected from the clinical visits conducted between Jan. 1, 2002 and Sept. 30, 2006.

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”, added co-author and medical director of the Viterbi Family Sleep Center, Lawrence E. Kline. He also believes that their new work will spur further research in this domain, whilst inciting physicians to consider other medication instead of sleeping pills.

Scientists at the Viterbi Family Sleep Center use cognitive therapy instead of hypnotic medication in order to treat different sleep disorders. One of their studies suggests that patients who suffer from insomnia could require less than the normally suggested eight hours of nightly sleep.

“Understanding how to use the circadian rhythm is a very powerful tool that doesn’t require a prescription”, concluded Dr. Kline.