Sedatives to treat insomnia in elderly may not be worth associated risks

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Dec. 5, 2005

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The benefits of using sedating medication, such as over-the-counter antihistamines or prescription benzodiazepines, to treat insomnia may not be worth the risks in patients older than 60, according to a review of the data published last month in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers at the University of Toronto analyzed 24 studies that included a total of more than 2,400 older patients treated for at least five days with these drugs but who were without other psychological comorbidities. The authors found a statistically significant but small improvement in sleep patterns but also found a worrying increase in adverse events, such as dizziness, disorientation, cognitive impairment and falls, which may be clinically relevant for this age group.

"In people over 60, the benefits of these drugs may not justify the increased risk," the authors concluded. They suggested that behavioral therapies may be the way to go for insomnia in this age group.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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