Link between Dementia and Sleeping Pills

Link between Dementia and Sleeping PillsAccording to a recent research, people taking sleeping pills to help themselves to get some sleep are at an increased risk of developing dementia. Almost 50% chances are increased. However, if you plan to empty your bathroom cabinet, understand the facts behind this. Do not stop taking any medicine without the consultation of your doctor.

The drug benzodiazepine which includes diazepam and lorazepam are known to cause the development of dementia five years later if the drug is used consecutively for 3 months. Almost about 32% people are diagnosed with dementia, and if the drug issued for more than 6 months, the figure rises to 82%.

Last year in England alone, 6 million prescriptions were issued for these drugs. Researchers said these findings were important as a larger number of elderly are taking these medicines.

Why Are Sleeping Pills Prescribed?

Many people suffer from insomnia or sleeping problems. In order to attain some sleep so that they can function properly, doctors prescribe them sleeping pills. However, these medications should not be used for more than a month maximum. Unfortunately, people tend to use these medications for a much longer period, hence risking themselves to develop dementia.

How Do These Medications Work?

These medications have a strong sedative effect, helping people suffering from insomnia. By boosting the action of GABA, the chemical activity in the brain (the one that mainly controls emotions), is reduced.

How Does It Lead To Dementia?

Although the exact mechanism in still unknown, but it is said that they alter the connections between the cells in the brain or even the structure of the brain as well. What we need to find out is that if these changes are permanent, and if so, these types of medications must be banned and new medications must be researched in order to reverse the condition.

Some Leading Signs of Dementia:

Scientists tracked the health of 3434 men and women over the age of 65 years over a period of 7 years. They were monitoring their use of sleeping pills. Of the total of 3434 people, 634 developed Alzheimer’s and 160 afflicted other types of dementia. For individual’s taking a higher dose of medications, the risk of developing dementia increased by 54% as compared to no use at all.

This survey also showed that people taking Doxepin 10mg once a day, 4mg of Benadryl, or a 5mg of Ditropan will be diagnosed with dementia if they used it for more than three years.


Of course the doctor knows the best. However, if you need these medications to combat insomnia, the doctor should make sure they give you the lowest dose possible and keep monitoring to make sure the medicine is working and in case it is not, stop the medication right away.

The elderly should be informed about these ill effects of sleeping pills by their health care providers so that they can decide whether they want to continue taking the medicine or not and if they decide to resume, the dose should be minimum. They should also try to use alternative methods to help them sleep like chamomile tea or lavender. Additional studies should be required in order to confirm these findings, as well as to understand the basic mechanism.

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