Sleep medications taken on a steady basis can lead to an increased risk for developing dementia, according to a recent study. The results were presented earlier this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019.
Today, sleep medications are common usage by senior citizens. Senior citizens, more than any other age group, are more susceptible to suffer from sleep deprivation. Indeed, doctors are very quick to prescribe these drugs at the very first patient complaint. However, it appears that little consideration has been given to the possible negative long-term effects of these drugs on senior citizens’ brain health.
Sleep Medications: Study Results
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, evaluated 3,068 senior citizens — aged 70 to 79 years old.
All seniors were cognitively healthy when the study began. The researchers questioned the participants about their use of sleeping pills. In addition, they accessed information about them from medical records and tests of brain function. This study was conducted over a 15-year period.
The results showed that seniors who reported using sleep medications “often” or “almost always” were 43 percent more likely than the control group to develop dementia.
One factor that researchers did not control was distinguishing between different types of sleep aids. Different medications may also have differing effects on brain function. A future study will correct for this by looking at specific types of sleep medications.
At this point, the data only suggest a cause-effect link between sleep medications and dementia. The observed cognitive decline may also be affected by some other factors, not yet identified.
The major positive of this study, is that doctors may think twice before writing a sleep medication prescription for seniors. And, also for clinicians to be more cautious of sleep meds long-term effects.