Scientific and medical

Are sleeping pills the gateway to dementia?

Informants / Khorasan Razavi White people who take sleeping pills are 80% more likely to develop dementia.

According to Health, sleeping pills are a useful drug for people who have trouble sleeping, but new research results have shown that this drug also has a downside.

Scientists recently found that common sleeping pills can significantly increase the risk of dementia. In their study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, they reported a 79% increased risk.

Researchers at the University of California – San Francisco conducted this study to understand the effect of sleeping pills on cognition in the elderly. They wanted to determine the relationship between sleeping pill use and dementia among users over a 15-year period.

Researchers followed 3,068 older adults (42% black and 58% white) without dementia who lived outside nursing homes. They were enrolled in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study for 9 years, and the average age of the participants was 74.

During the study, 20 percent of the participants developed dementia. Analyzing the data, the research team found that white participants who often or almost always used sleeping pills to help them relax and fall asleep were 79% more likely to develop dementia than those who did not take sleeping pills.

Although the research team found a similar risk of dementia in black participants, they did not focus on this because sleeping pill use was significantly lower among them.

Principal investigator Yu Lang, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), said the differences may be attributable to socioeconomic status. Black participants with access to sleep medications may be a select group with a high socioeconomic status, and some sleep medications may be associated with a greater risk of dementia than others.

Are sleeping pills the gateway to dementia?

The study found that white participants were three times more likely than their black counterparts to take sleeping pills about 5 to 15 times per month.

The sleeping pills participants used included the sedative-hypnotic ambien, benzodiazepines including triazolam (Halcion), flurazepam (Dalmani), and temazepam (Restoril), as well as the antidepressants trazodone, Oliptro, and Deseril.

Because the findings only apply to white people, the researchers said there may be other factors leading to cognitive decline in the general population.

Frequent use of sleep medications has been associated with an increased risk of dementia in older white adults, so more research is needed to determine the underlying mechanisms.

According to the most recent statistics available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, about 8.4 percent of American adults took sleeping pills every day or most days in 2020. Women (10.2%) use sleeping pills more often than men (6.6%). .

Meanwhile, current estimates are that about 5.8 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. Of that number, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, about 5.6 million are associated with people 65 and older.

Experts say sleep medications, which are often classified as sedative-hypnotic, should only be used to treat short-term insomnia. Cognitive behavioral therapy may work better for long-term sleep problems.

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