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Do prescription sleeping pills also work?

Do prescription sleeping pills also work?

By Serena McNiff
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, MAY 12, 2021 (HealthDay News) – An estimated 9 million Americans turn to prescription pills when they can’t sleep, but a new study on middle-aged women that doing drugs for a year or more may do nothing good.

About 200 women who cured their sleep problems had more than 400 women who had trouble sleeping but did not take medication, and researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that sleeping pills are not beneficial for long-term use. After giving a medication to sleep for a year or two, the women in the medical team did not sleep better or longer than those who were not on medication.

“The simple conclusion is that long-term use of sleeping pills does not have a clear benefit in terms of chronic sleep problems,” said Dr. Daniel Solomon. rheumatologist and Brigham and Women’s epidemiologist.

Although Solomon does not usually focus on sleep-related issues, he was inspired to see patients who had been struggling for years. loezina. “Usually I can give the patient a medicine a week to sleep, and sometimes they come back with long-term use and are still complaining about sleep problems,” he noted.


The findings come from a database of U.S. National Institutes of Health that has tracked thousands of women to study how middle age and menopause affect mental and physical health.

Menopause, when women stop producing certain female hormones and stop having them once a month, is known to cause insomnia. Many women have trouble sleeping in the years before menopause and during menopause.

Solomon’s research team identified women who reported having trouble sleeping in that database, such as waking up too early and having difficulty sleeping and falling asleep.

“All the women in our study had sleep disturbances. Some of them started a medication and others didn’t, and then we went on for a long time a year later and two years later,” Solomon said. “We asked them about their usual medication use at each annual visit, and we asked them about sleep disturbances, using a well-described sleep disturbance scale.”


Since the study is primarily conducted at annual check-ins with participants, it can only show how these medications have worked in the long term. However, clinical trials in the short term, these drugs help people sleep.


“There are good randomized controlled trials that say sleep medications help for weeks or months,” Solomon said. “But, it seems that about 35% to 40% of people who start them use them a year later. So the typical (i.e., chronic) way they are used has not been well studied in testing.”

The new report was published online in the May 11 issue of the journal BMJ Open.

They are usually said to be sleep drugs benzodiazepines and “Z-drugs,” such as zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta), some of which are used to promote sleep and others are primarily used to relieve anxiety.

These drugs are thought to work by altering levels of brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, which keep them alert throughout the day and relaxed at night, says Dr. Fariha Abbasi-Feinberg, a sleep medicine specialist and a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. board of directors.

Like most drugs, sleeping pills are safe. According to Solomon, the most commonly mentioned concerns are daytime sleepiness and balance problems or falling, especially when a doctor wakes up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Addiction is a problem because people can rely on sleeping pills. There may also be a link between sleeping pills and memory problems later in life.


“If you’re going to use sleeping pills, you really have to think of them as short-term or very regular medications,” Solomon said. “Use them for a week or a couple of nights here and there. But once you start using them for the long term, it’s not like they’re going to be cured for sleep problems.”

Although Solomon is not a sleep expert, he said his colleagues recommend “improving sleep hygiene” to solve ongoing sleep problems.

“The point is to make sure you’re tired when you’re going to sleep, that you limit your use of caffeine during the day, and to reduce the screens when you sleep,” Solomon said. “Occasional use of sleeping pills or supplements may be helpful, but they should not become a chronic treatment for chronic sleep problems.”


When changing sleep habits is not enough, Abbasi-Feinberg said cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective option for people with insomnia.

“Cognitive behavioral therapies for insomnia help us restructure sleep problems,” Abbasi-Feinberg said. “It deals with all the thoughts and behaviors that prevent you from sleeping well. It helps you learn new strategies for better sleep, and can also help reduce stress, relax, and manage schedules.”


Abbasi-Feinberg said he treats sleep problems as a mystery. “You have to solve the problem and see what happens to each person and then make a long-term decision,” he said.

More information

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tips for better sleep.

SOURCES: Daniel Solomon, MD, head, clinical sciences section, rheumatology division, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; Fariha Abbasi-Feinberg, MD, member, board of directors, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep medicine specialist, Millennium Physician Group, Fort Myers, Florida; BMJ Open, May 11, 2021, online

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