If you have trouble sleeping, you may want to skip the sleeping pills and consider deep breathing or chamomile tea instead, especially if you are obese. A new study shows that obesity and sleeping pills can be a deadly combination, even when taking as few as 18 prescribed pills per year.
These findings are particularly disturbing given the large numbers represented in each segment of the study: approximately 66% of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, about 30% of adults get 6 hours or less sleep per night, and the sleeping pill market has grown by 23% in the United States from 2006 to 2010.
The Scripps Clinic-led study involved nearly 40,000 participants and was the first to show that use of eight of the most commonly prescribed hypnotic medications (e.g., Ambien [zolpidem], Restoril [temazepam]) are associated with an increased risk of death and cancer. This finding shatters the belief that these newer drugs are safer than older hypnotics.
In the study, the risk of dying from using sleeping pills was 4.6 times more likely on average among all individuals who took any amount of the hypnotics. Men who took sleeping pills were about twofold more likely to die as women who used the pills. Among obese individuals, those with an average body mass index of 38.8 had an 8.1 higher risk of death if they took 18 or fewer sleeping pills per year when compared with obese controls who did not use sleeping pills.
Scripps Health. “Obesity raises death risk tied to sleeping pills.” ScienceDaily, 16 March 2012