If you’ve made a similar journey yourself, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s been reckoned that up to a third of all elderly people in the US and UK are taking a powerful sleeping agent every night.
So, amazed by the level of use of a ‘sedative hypnotic’ – as sleeping pills are officially called – researchers decided to frame the question slightly differently by asking: are the benzodiazepines worth a good night’s sleep? To answer their question, they analysed 24 different studies that involved a total of 2417 insomniacs.
The simple, and short, answer they found is no. The drugs increased the chances of cognitive (mental) problems by almost five times, physical or ‘motor’ problems by nearly three times and daytime fatigue by nearly four times.
The risks clearly outweigh the benefits, the researchers say. Worse, the drugs weren’t especially effective at helping the patient sleep and, yet, they had a devastating effect on daytime activities (BMJ, 2005; 331: 1169-73).