An estimated one in three people in the UK regularly use sleeping tablets and doctors are prescribing around 50 million pounds worth of pills a year. Finnish scientists have found that taking sleeping tablets at least twice a week trebled the risk of lung cancer and, in the elderly, increased the likelihood of a fall. The pills, particularly the newer ones on the market, are thought to add to daytime drowsiness in those with existing sleep problems. In fact, certain drugs, known as Z-hypnotics, can also increase the risk of heart attacks by up to 50%.
A team of researchers at Keele University studied the patient records of some 300 GP surgeries and identified 3,500 people aged over 45 who had been prescribed sleeping tablets for insomnia. Older drugs like Diazepam, as well as the newer Z types, have become increasingly used as treatment for haphazard sleep, along with Melatonin, which is often touted as a cure for jet lag. Prescriptions for the latter have doubled to 500,000 since 2011. Comparing records of those who are on all types of sleeping drugs with similar aged patients who did not take them, showed that those on the Z drugs were twice as likely to break a bone. Taking melatonin increased the risks by 90% and diazepam by 70%!
The study reported that more than 30% of people over 65 fall each year and in half of the cases falls are recurrent. So drugs that increase the propensity to fall are a cause for concern. Doctors should be alert the risks of melatonin, especially as its popularity is rising.
Notwithstanding any updates in research, it stands to reason that anything you can do to naturally help regulate sleep patterns will also help diminish the need for these drugs. Our Mindtracks for Sleep Easy have been designed specifically to aid restful sleep and to counteract the effects of jet lag, so before you reach for the prescription, please give these a try.