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Sleeping pills ‘raise death risk’

People who take insomnia or anxiety medication could raise their risk of dying from any cause by 36%, according to Canadian experts.

Researchers who studied data from more than 14,000 people learned that anyone who had taken the drugs in the month before the survey were more likely to die than those who had not.

Other factors, such as people’s drinking, smoking and exercise habits and whether they were depressed, were taken into account by the team at Laval University’s School of Psychology.

It was thought the increased death risk could occur because sleeping drugs and anti-anxiety medication can alter individual’s alertness, co-ordination and response times, perhaps making them more vulnerable to accidents.

Other theories included that the drugs could increase the risk of suicide as they affect the central nervous system, or that they could exacerbate breathing problems when people are asleep.

Study leader Dr Genevieve Belleville said people should consider a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy in place of drugs.

Her team analysed Canada’s National Population Health Survey, which questioned people aged between 18 and 102 every two years between 1994 and 2007. The study was published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Copyright Press Association 2010

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