A study in the 2/28/12 BMJ (British Medical Journal) Open found that currently popular sleeping pills are associated with significantly increased mortality risk, including cancer, and may be associated with hundreds of thousands of excess deaths in the USA annually. These findings are consistent with 18 previous studies that have found a significant association between sleeping pills and increased mortality risk.
Additionally, a recent major study that was funded by the National Institutes of Health found that sleeping pills were no more effective than a placebo when measured objectively in the laboratory, while dozens of studies have demonstrated that longer sleep durations (presumably the primary reason for which sleeping pills are used) are associated with greater mortality than short sleep duration. However, these findings have failed to reach doctors, patients, or the media.
Despite these new findings, 62 million prescriptions were written for sleeping pills in 2010. Sales of sleeping pills currently exceed $4 billion annually due in large part to biased research and misleading marketing by drug companies that portray sleeping pills as safer and more effective than they truly are.
Although they are classified as controlled substances because they can have substantial side effects and can be abused and cause dependence, sleeping pills are among the most widely used treatments in adult medicine. New research on their elevated mortality risks and placebo effect suggests that the widespread use of sleeping pills may not only be unjustified but potentially dangerous.
Click here for the study on sleeping pills and mortality risk.