Parental Sleep Deprivation? Don't Take That Sleeping Pill!

sleep deprivation
Taking a sedative for sleep deprivation or insomnia increases risk of early death.

Sleep deprivation is something to which most parents become accustomed. Last night I was so exhausted that I fell asleep in my son’s bed after reading to him at bedtime.  I woke up at 11:30pm wondering where the heck I was.

There’s nothing like sleep problems to make us welcome a sedative that will turn out the lights.  If you’ve been using sleeping pills to get more parental shuteye, though, you may want to rethink your strategy. A new study that took a look at more than 35,000 people found that those who had prescriptions for sleeping pills were four times as likely to die early compared to those who didn’t take such pills. In fact, Time reports that the study’s lead author, Daniel Kripke, says, “The risk of developing lymphoma, lung, colon or prostate cancer associated with sleeping pills was greater than the effect from smoking.”

While the risk of early death grew higher the more pills patients took, even as few as 18 sleeping pills a year increased the risk of dying early. This includes such brands as Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata and Restoril.

In the study, 638 people died who were on sleeping pills, while 295 died who were not. This is important to know because it shows that while the risk of death is higher, it’s not like people were dropping like flies all over the place.  Plus, it may be that the higher risk of early death is due to the underlying conditions of those who were on the pills, and not the pills themselves. This means you don’t have to run to the bathroom this second and flush your bottles of Ambien.  Still, you may decide now is the time to try a different approach. As an effective alternative, the Mayo Clinic recommends cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

Photo credit: What is the Trend