Taking prescribed sleeping pills to treat insomnia may increase the risk of falling for older adults, according to new research.
You might think that if older adults are prescribed sleep medication, their risk of falling would reduce because they would stay in bed. But according to Orfeu Buxton, Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health, Penn State, the risk of falling doesn’t decrease, but in fact “worsens”.
Buxton reminds us that “… medications have many unintended consequences that worsen with later age and with the duration of taking them. Almost all the sleeping medications are meant only for short-term use and even the long-term use indications are supposed to be on the order of weeks, not decades.”
Also, these types of medications often have side effects, that cause problems with balance, memory and situational awareness.
Buxton suggests that non-drug-related approaches to treating sleep disorders may be more effective for older adults, decreasing the risk of trips and falls. “If you have difficulty sleeping the most effective treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia—CBTi—which teaches patients how to learn to sleep well again”.
A previous study has also suggested the risk of hip fractures rises, soon after an older person is prescribed a sleeping pill.
In that study, Dr. Ben Carter & team of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine and the Institute of Psychiatry, indicated that older people are at greater risk for hip fractures, for two weeks after they start taking prescription sleeping pills.
The findings from the team at Penn State Center for Healthy Aging are reported in the current issue of Sleep.
Penn State News Release – Older adults with insomnia may fall even more when on prescription sleep meds
The Philadelphia Inquirer – Sleeping Pills Boost Danger of Falls, Fractures in Older Users
The information contained herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have, before changing your medication and/or regarding any medical condition.