Posted on 28/09/2012

Could Sleeping Pills be Linked to Dementia?

Could Sleeping Pills be Linked to Dementia?

It has been reported that sleeping pills used regularly by millions of people across the UK could be linked to dementia. An estimated 11 million patients are prescribed benzodiazepines each year but could this become a public health disaster?

The research comes from a French study which analysed over a thousand elderly adults for 15 years. It showed that those who started taking sleeping pills after the first three years of study, were 60% more likely to develop dementia than those who remained drug-free.

However, the main difficulty in the study, which requires further research, is establishing the role benzodiazepines play in causing the dementia. A commonly prescribed group of sedatives for anxiety and sleeping problems, it is a study that is likely to be ongoing.

Researchers have studied and taken into account a number of contributing factors that could be linked to the relationship as well as the possibility that the risk may not be caused directly by the drug itself but whichever underlying condition or natural processes in the brain cause the patient to require the pills in the first place.

Disturbed sleep can be a symptom signalling the onset of dementia, so could it be that the need for sleeping tablets is caused by early dementia and not vice versa?

Furthermore, with the research conducted in France where the use of benzodiazepines is more common, could the results apply to UK patients?

The research which monitored brain ageing also looked at other potential confounders which may or may not affect the subject’s risk of developing dementia including age, gender, wine consumption, depression and use of medication.

A well-conducted study, the research should add to the ongoing argument over whether benzodiazepines should be a ‘treatment of last resort’, prescribed only for a 2 to 4 week period, but with further research inevitable for now we will just have to wait and see.

NRS Healthcare stock a range of mobility aids and disability aids to help those suffering from dementia. To find out more, please feel free to browse our website or visit our dementia care section for a range of dementia aids, designed to help with daily living.

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