The February 27 issue of BMJ Open released a study that associated increased risks of cancer, heart disease, and other fatal ailments with taking sleeping pills. Researchers found that people who took 1-18 sleeping pills per year increased their chances of death by over 3.5 times compared to people who took no sleeping pills at all. Additionally, people who took more than 132 pills per year were five times more at risk than the pill-free public.
This may be a tough pill to swallow for those who rely on medicinal aids for a restful night’s sleep—a dependency composed of 56 million users in 2008, according to the Los Angeles Times. But this study’s findings should not be taken lightly. The study’s author, Dr. Daniel F. Kripke, notes that “it looks like sleeping pills could be as risky as smoking cigarettes.” And while the study only shows a correlation and does not prove causation, it may be worth keeping an eye out for alternate sleep strategies. Sheep counting, anyone?
Sleeping medications tracked in the study include Restori, Ambien, Intermezzo, Lunesta, Sonata, and others. The Mayo Clinic has more on sleeping pills.