Call 413.540.1234 to
schedule an appointment
CONCERN/EAP: 413.534.2625
Billing questions? Call: 413.540.1212
CRISIS: 413.733.6661

Aging & Geriatrics
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
Few Older Patients Aware of DeprescribingHealth Tip: Stair Safety For Older PeopleFracture Risk Higher for Seniors With DiabetesHealth Tip: Medication Suggestions for Older AdultsU.S. Seniors Getting Healthier, Especially When Wealthy and WhiteShort Duration of Hospice Seen for Seniors at End of LifeHeath Tip: Myths About the Aging BrainRemember This: A Healthy Body Keeps the Mind Sharp, TooIs Dementia Declining Among Older Americans?No Link for Cardiovascular Meds Use, Cognitive ImpairmentToo Much TV May Cost You Your MobilitySmoking Linked to Frailty in SeniorsMore Than Half of Americans Will Need Nursing Home Care: StudyLess Than Half of Seniors With A-Fib Receive AnticoagulantsPatients' Hearing Loss May Mean Poorer Medical CareHow You Think About Your Arthritis Makes a DifferenceDo Fewer Nightly Dreams Mean Higher Dementia Risk in Seniors?Supplement May Help Against Vision-Robbing Disease in SeniorsHealth Tip: Heat and the ElderlyCaregiving Needs Double as End of Life NearsSitting Could Be Big Health Risk for Frail FolksLower Blood Pressure Best for Seniors' MindsPhysical Activity Predicts Disability in Older Adults'On the Move' Group Exercise Program Aids Walking in ElderlyTaking a Stand on Staying Mobile After 80The Right Shoes Can Help Prevent FallsYoga May Boost Aging BrainsHealth Tip: One of Three Adults Gets ShinglesMidlife Behaviors May Affect Your Dementia Risk'Loneliness Epidemic' Called a Major Public Health ThreatProtein at All 3 Meals May Help Preserve Seniors' StrengthInappropriate Med Use High in Cognitively Impaired SeniorsSwitching to Generic Eye Meds Could Save Medicare MillionsIncreased Dementia Risk With Hearing Loss in Older AdultsExercise Not Making Dent in Most Seniors' Down TimeJust Thinking You're Less Active May Shorten Your LifeHealth Benefits of Healthy Lifestyle Quantified in U.S.In Mice, Brain Cells Discovered That Might Control AgingHealth Tip: Adapting After Hip ReplacementTargeting 9 Risk Factors Could Prevent 1 in 3 Dementia Cases: StudyCan Daily Crossword Protect You From Dementia?A Healthy Diet May Help Ward Off DementiaLifestyle Factors Predict Independent Aging in Older MenNew Criteria Urged for Infection Diagnosis Among Seniors in ERCognitive Function Up With Adherence to Mediterranean DietLiving With Purpose May Help Seniors Sleep SoundlySeniors' Lungs Can Tackle ExerciseExercise Can Keep Obese Seniors on the GoPre-, Post-Op C-Reactive Protein Levels Tied to DeliriumA Cheaper Alternative to Hearing Aids?
Questions and AnswersLinksBook ReviewsSelf-Help Groups
Related Topics

Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
Elder Care
Lifespan Development

Sleeping Pills Boost Danger of Falls, Fractures in Older Users

HealthDay News
by -- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Updated: May 2nd 2017

new article illustration

TUESDAY, May 2, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Falls and resulting hip fractures can prove disabling and even fatal for seniors. And new research suggests the risk of hip fractures rises soon after an older person is prescribed a sleeping pill.

Specifically, older people are at greater risk for hip fractures for two weeks after they start taking prescription sleeping pills. Those pills include benzodiazepines such as Valium or Ativan, and newer "Z-drug" alternatives such as Ambien, Sonata or Lunesta.

Even though Z-drugs are often prescribed to help people sleep, "there is no evidence that they are a safer alternative to benzodiazepines in relation to hip fracture risk," said study lead author Dr. Ben Carter, of Cardiff University's School of Medicine and the Institute of Psychiatry, in the United Kingdom.

"Our study shows that both appear to significantly increase the risk of hip fracture when newly prescribed by doctors," he said in a university news release.

One expert in the United States said he's familiar with the sleeping pill-fracture connection.

Dr. Alan Mensch helps direct medical affairs at Northwell Health's Plainview and Syosset Hospitals in New York. He said the link between hip fracture and the use of Valium, Ativan and other benzodiazepine sleeping pills became apparent as early as the 1970s.

"These hip fractures resulted in the mortality of anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of these patients with permanent disability in a significant number of survivors," Mensch noted.

To help give patients a safer alternative, the Z-drugs were developed, but they may be no better in terms of users' risk of falling, Mensch believes.

In its new research, Carter's team reviewed data from 18 studies on sleeping pills and hip fracture risk, with study populations ranging from 500 to more than 900,000 people. Participants were over 65 years of age, with most in their 70s and above.

The review found that new users of prescription sleep aids -- which have been associated with daytime drowsiness, delayed reaction times and impaired balance -- had a fracture rate nearly 2.5 times greater than their peers who were not taking these drugs.

The risk did subside over time, but never went away completely. According to the study, people who used the drugs for between 15 and 30 days had an estimated 53 percent increase in their hip fracture risk. And the risk was still 20 percent higher for those taking the drugs long-term, or more than 30 days, compared to people not taking the medications.

Carter said doctors need to be aware of the heightened risk of falls and fracture when they prescribe sleeping pills to older patients. Certain interventions -- such as "strength training to improve frailty, removal of hazards at home, visual correction and a medication review -- are also needed to mitigate the risk of hip fractures, particularly in the first few days of use," he said.

For his part, Mensch wondered if doctors and patients are reaching too readily for sleeping pills in the first place. He said there are simple, non-pharmacological alternatives that might help people get good shut-eye.

"Some examples of these therapies are exercise several hours before bedtime, caffeine avoidance after 3 p.m., limiting alcohol consumption and other 'sleep hygiene' measures," Mensch said. "These measures should be undertaken initially to aid sleep."

Dr. Matthew Hepinstall is an orthopaedic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who's seen the tragic effects of hip fracture in his patients. He noted that "osteoporosis and insomnia commonly coexist in older people, and prescription of sleeping pills is believed to increase the risk of falls and fractures, creating a clinical challenge."

Hepinstall agreed with Mensch that patients should try non-drug options before resorting to a sleeping pill. And if they do take such drugs, they should safeguard their surroundings to help prevent falls, he suggested.

The findings were published online recently in PLOS One.

More information

The American Sleep Association has more about sleeping pills and their side effects.