A study released yesterday by the British Medical Journal claims that adults who take sleeping pills have an increased risk of dying earlier than people who do not take sleeping pills. To be specific, the study indicates that people taking sleeping pills, even on an infrequent basis, are 3.5 times more likely to die.

This is an eye-opening study. It seems like everyone I talk to has taken or is taking some sort of sleeping aid. There is a reported 50 to 70 million Americans who suffer from insomnia and 6 to 10 percent of Americans were prescribed sleeping pills in 2010. This is understandable because a lack of sleep can bring on health problems of its own, and untreated sleep disorders can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Well, let’s face it, no one likes to feel tired.

Are Sleeping Pills to Blame?

Doctors are asking whether the study suggests that taking sleeping pills causes an increase in the risk of death or if people who ended up needing the sleeping pills had underlying conditions causing the insomnia, which creates the increased risk.

Dr. Steven Scharf, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, stated that "[m]ost chronic conditions, including cancer, are associated with insomnia and mortality."

With that said, the study also found that people who use sleeping pills regularly have a 35 percent increased risk of cancer.

Wake Up Call

While I, myself, do not have issues with sleeping (I am knocking on wood as I admit this), it seems natural to me that if you cannot sleep, you would seek out ways to remedy that. A pill seems logical. However, it is increasingly becoming apparent that no medicine is without side effects or risks and no symptom is without suspicion.

An ABC News article regarding the British Medical Journal study mentions insomnia could indicate that there is something more serious going on and if a person needs to take sleeping pills for a prolonged period of time, they should get to a doctor to investigate the cause of the sleeping problem.

Do you take sleeping pills? Will this study cause you to change your mind on taking sleeping pills?