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Dangers of Sleeping Tablets (Pills) for the Elderly

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Dangers of Sleeping Tablets (Pills) for the ElderlySleeping tablets are a fast and convenient way to tackle any difficulty with sleeping. Whether you have a problem with falling asleep, sleeping through the night or a restful and invigorating sleep, most people feel that a few days of sleeping tablets are all that is needed.

However, this medication can often be quite addictive both in terms of a physical (physiological) and psychological dependence. There are also a host of dangers of using these drugs in the long term. The elderly are often at greater risk and should use sleeping tablets cautiously and only as prescribed by a doctor.

Sleeping Problems More Common in the Senior Years

Disruptions in sleep patterns are a common occurrence in seniors. It may be due to several factors such as :

  • Age-related disturbances in the sleep cycle
  • Pain and discomfort from chronic diseases
  • Frequent awakening to urinate
  • Napping during the day during the retirement years
  • Worry, grief, fear and depression
  • Medication-induced sleeplessness (side effect)

Ideally any treatment should be direct at the root cause. For example, the cause of pain needs to be attended to rather than trying to treat the complications associated with sleeplessness. However, this is often not easy to accomplish in the elderly who are more likely to be suffering with chronic diseases that can be effectively managed but never cured.

Sleeping Pills Are Dangerous

While the use of sleeping pills may be a short term solution, ongoing use can be detrimental to a person physical and even mental health. Its use, if not carefully supervised, can develop into a dependence where a person is unable to sleep without first taking a sleeping pill. This is the scenario that needs to be avoided in every person irrespective of age.

In the elderly, however, the concurrent use of other medication or alcohol as well as the reduction in body weight and impaired ability of the body to process medication holds additional dangers. Some of these complications are life threatening and it is not uncommon for death to occur accidentally by the uncontrolled use of sleeping pills. The elderly are at the greater risk in this regard.

Treating Sleeping Problems with Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills are indicated for sleeping problems and should not be blamed as the cause of addiction and even deaths in some cases. It is not about the drug in this instance but rather about the way it is used. The problem lies with both the user and the dispenser. In the ideal setting, sleeping pills are :

  • Considered after other lifestyle measures have failed to assist.
  • Prescribed by a medical doctor after careful assessment and consideration of the patient’s medical history and other drug usage.
  • Dispensed in small quantities for use over just a few days.
  • Used for a few consecutive nights until the sleeping pattern is restored.
  • Taken as prescribed by the doctor without the simultaneous consumption of alcohol or other nervous system depressants.

If the above procedure is followed, sleeping pills can be a safe and effective means of aiding a person with a disturbed sleep pattern. However, it is often not the case and a person may begin misusing and abusing sleeping pills. This is when complications are more likely to arise.

Preventing Sleeping Pill Dangers

Some simple steps and common sense can go a long way in treating sleeping problems and preventing dangers before it arises.

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding the use of sleeping tablets. When in doubt, speak to your pharmacist or doctor and read the label.
  • Try some simple lifestyle measures like exercising daily and avoiding coffee and other stimulants. Do not drink large amounts of water before bedtime especially if you awake frequently at night to urinate.
  • Newer drugs may be safer but can still be dangerous when misused. If you feel that you are dependent on these drugs, speak to a doctor or even a helpline where you can remain anonymous.
  • Do not share your sleeping pills with other and do not borrow sleeping pills. Dosage and types of sleeping tablets are prescribed for the individual.

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