Sleeping Pill Dangers

Sleep researchers say as many as 50 percent of American adults report chronic sleep problems. New research looks at prescription sleeping pills, and the findings may surprise you.

Another night, another battle with “The Sandman.” A new University of California study finds you could pay a big price if you fight insomnia with prescription sleeping pills.

University of California sleep researcher Dr. Daniel Kripke says, “People who take sleeping pills regularly have about the same risk as people who smoke one or two packs of cigarettes a day.”

Using data from the study of one million people, Dr. Kripke says prescription sleeping pills are dangerous. “People who take sleeping pills do WORSE the next day. They have poor judgement and slow reaction times,” he says.

Kripke reports chronic users of prescription sleeping pills are also three times more likely to die a premature death than non-users. Other sleep specialists disagree, saying Kripke’s findings are unusual, and more studies are necessary to confirm the results.

So what should you do? Experts say stick to a regular bedtime. Get out of bed if you just can’t sleep, and check with your doctor for underlying problems that cause sleep disturbances. Even chronic insomniacs can tame sleeplessness.

Until more studies are done, Dr. Kripke says he doesn’t know for sure if any prescription sleeping pill is safe. If you absolutely must take them, don’t do it for more than four weeks in a row. There’s even some evidence that sleeping pills may not work as well even after just two weeks. It’s a short-term solution, at best.

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