Study Shows Higher Mortality Rate In Obesity Linked To Sleeping Pills
A new study published Friday reports that sleeping pills appear to be connected to the increased risk of death amongst patients suffering from obesity. The study reveals that even patients who have 18 or less pills prescribed during the whole year present a higher risk of mortality. The study received funding from the Scripps Health Foundation.
“The associations between sleeping pills and increased mortality were present, and relatively stronger, even in people aged 18 to 54,” said Dr. Robert Langer, family physician, at the EPI/NPAM meeting held in San Diego this March. Co-author of the study, Daniel Kripke, psychiatrist, added that the increased mortality rate of obese patients could be related to sleep apnea, noting that previous studies have shown that sleeping pills are associated with more often and longer pauses in breathing during sleep apnea.
According to Dr. Langer, the use of sleeping pills by patients suffering from obesity is linked with an extra death per year for every 100 patients. A connection between the sex of the patients has also been discovered, showing that men who take sleeping pills have an increased risk of mortality (almost 50 percent higher) than women, after excluding other influential factors.
The current study was conducted by the Scripps Clinic, included almost 40,000 patients and was published for the first time in late February in the journal BMJ Open. The study showed for the first time that most widely used hypnotic drugs were associated with an increased mortality rate amongst patients.
Until now, scientists believed that these hypnotic drugs are safer than the precedent ones because of a shorter duration of action, but the study reveals that their side effects are no different from the drugs that were replaced.
According to an oral session held by Dr. Langer during the AHA (American Heart Association) conference, patients suffering from obesity whilst also having a BMI of over 38 showed an increased risk of mortality. Findings show that the risk of mortality of these patients was almost 8 time higher than that of patients with the same obesity problems but who were not taking hypnotic drugs. The risk of death was shown to be 9.3 times higher in patients who took more than 132 sleeping pills every year.
Over the past several years, the pharmaceutical industries focusing on the development of hypnotic drugs have seen an increase of almost 23 percent in the United States whilst generating almost $2 billion in annual sales.
Data for the current study was gathered in an electronic database over a period of more than 10 years, thus allowing researchers to study approximately 40,000 patients from around the United States. The patients included in the study consisted of two groups. The first group consisted of patients who had been taking hypnotic medication for an average of 2.5 years, whilst the second group consisted of patients who were not prescribed any drugs, thus making up the control group.
Lawrence E. Kline, co-author of the study, said that the results of the study are based on observational data, thus being possible that other factors, which were not counted for, could stand behind the results. He also added that the current study should convince doctors to prescribe alternatives to hypnotic drugs in order to avoid a higher mortality rate amongst patients.
Recent tests conducted by the Viterbi Family Sleep Center show that cognitive therapy can be useful for patients suffering from insomnia. Tests have also shown that these patients could require less than eight hours of sleep per night. Dr. Kline suggest that better sleeping habits, relaxation and the correct understanding of the body’s natural clock can be helpful for patients suffering from sleeping disorders. He also added that insomnia that resulted in response to different problems, such as depression, should be treated as a psychological disorder, and not through the prescription of hypnotic drugs.