No more sleeping pills for the elderly
The use of sleeping pills leads to thousands of falls and fractures annually, says Patricia van den Bemt, Professor of Medicine at Erasmus MC.
Sleeping pills, called benzodiazepines, make elderly people drowsy and unsteady on their feet, causing them to lose their balance and end up in hospital with broken bones. Doctors should no longer prescribe sleeping pills, but educate their patients about sleep instead.
According to new research which was conducted under the auspices of Erasmus MC, sleeping pills are prescribed too quickly. Researcher and Professor of Medication Patricia van den Bemt at the University Hospital in Rotterdam says they lead to accidents and are addictive, hence she wants sleeping pills to be banned.
The Trimbos Institute has been warning about the dangers of sleeping pills for years. Still, 1.7 million Dutch people are taking these drugs, and 580,000 of them are elderly. On average, a user swallows 180 tablets per year, according to figures from the Foundation for Pharmaceutical Statistics.
The Dutch College of General Practitioners (NHG) acknowledges the problem, but their spokesperson believes that banning the prescription of these drugs to the elderly goes too far.
If pharmacists and doctors would take the age, weight, and condition of their patients into account many accidents could be prevented. But change is easier said then done. The Ministry of Health is trying to reduce hospitalisations after medication, but the number increased from 39,000 in 2009 to 49,000 in 2013.
‘What’s worse?’ professor Van Den Bemt wonders, ‘the drug or the disease?’ According to sleep expert Hans Burger from the Amsterdam Sleep Center, sleeping pills suppress dreams. Once people stop taking them, their dreams become intense; which makes anxious and leads them to quickly take another pill.
The Best Way to Get a Good Night's Sleep?
Move more, eat regularly, drink less alcohol, and don't take any daytime naps.
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