A new study has found that sleeping pills do not work as a long-term cure for insomnia.
For the study, researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston analysed two years' worth of data from nearly 700 middle-aged women and found that using sleep medication didn't help them sleep better in the long term compared to women who didn't use prescription pills.
"Long-term use of medications for sleep is not associated with reductions in sleep problems," said the study's lead author, Dr. Daniel Solomon, a professor of medicine in rheumatology and pharmacoepidemiology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. "We looked at women who had a similar baseline description of their sleep disturbances and compared those who were still taking the medications after two years to women who had not ever taken them, and we found no difference in sleep outcomes."
The researchers explained that while sleeping pills are mostly prescribed only for a short period, many patients ultimately take them for years, and suggested that insomnia sufferers should receive cognitive behavioural therapy to help them sleep instead of long-term medication.
"Sleep disturbances are common and increasing in prevalence. The use of sleep medications has grown, and they are often used over a long period, despite the relative lack of evidence from randomised controlled trials," the study authors wrote. "These drugs may work well in some people with sleep disturbances over several years, but the findings of this study should give pause for thought to prescribing clinicians and patients thinking about taking prescription meds for sleep disturbances in middle age."
The findings were published in BMJ Open.