- Regular use of sleeping pills can increase the risk of dementia by almost 80%, according to new research.
- The study followed a group of about 3,000 volunteers with an average age of 74 for about ten years.
- The risk of dementia varied based on the frequency of taking sleeping pills and the participants’ ethnic backgrounds.
- Specialists recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy as a first-line treatment for diagnosed insomnia, and gentle methods like meditation or relaxation techniques instead of relying on medication.
New research suggests that regular use of certain types of medication could significantly increase the risk of developing dementia. According to a study, taking sleeping pills could raise the risk of dementia by almost 80%.
Sleep is essential for good health, but for some people, it can be difficult to come by. Insomnia can have multiple causes, such as stress, lifestyle, work, and illness. In fact, a study by IFOP in March 2022 revealed that 70% of French people reported having sleep problems in the past eight days. To help them sleep, some people turn to sleeping pills. However, according to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, taking them too regularly could increase the risk of dementia by almost 80%.
To obtain these results, researchers followed a group of about 3,000 volunteers with an average age of 74 for about ten years. Initially, they showed no signs of dementia and were not hospitalized. The frequency of taking sleeping pills was recorded three times through a questionnaire. The participants were asked, “Do you take sleeping pills or other medications to help you sleep?” and had three options for their answer: “Never,” “Rarely” (once a month at most), and “Sometimes” (between two and four times a month), “Often” (between five and 15 times a month), or “Almost always” (between six and 30 times a month). The researchers also took into account the participants’ ethnic backgrounds.
The Consumption Of Sleeping Pills Varies According To Socio-Economic Status
To measure the onset of dementia, the researchers looked at the participants’ medical records, the treatments they were taking, and any symptomatic signs of dementia.
The results? During the study, 20% of participants developed dementia. “Participants who reported taking sleeping pills at least five times a month, as opposed to once a month or less, were significantly more likely to develop dementia,” the study said.
Their findings also varied depending on the participants’ ethnic backgrounds. The researchers noted that white participants who took sleeping pills “often” or “almost always” had a 79% increased risk of developing dementia compared to those who took them “rarely” or “never.” This figure was much lower among black participants, whose use of sleeping pills was much lower.
According to the researchers, socio-economic factors could be one of the explanations. “Black participants who have access to sleeping pills may be a restricted group with a high socio-economic status and, therefore, greater cognitive reserve, making them less susceptible to dementia,” explains Dr. Yue Leng of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Weill Institute for Neuroscience in a statement.
Insomnia: Prioritize “Gentle” Methods Over Sleeping Pills
In the face of sleep disorders, specialists advise determining sleep problems and conducting various tests. In the case of diagnosed insomnia, Dr. Yue Leng recommends “cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia” as a first-line treatment, which involves psychological support. “If medication needs to be used, melatonin could be a safer option, but we need more evidence to understand its long-term impact on health,” she concludes.
Insomnia affects many people worldwide, and this study sheds light on the potential dangers of regular sleeping pill consumption. Instead of relying on medication, seeking psychological support and trying gentle methods such as meditation or relaxation techniques could lead to better and safer sleep outcomes. Do you struggle with sleep? Share your tips and tricks for falling asleep in the comments below!
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