Are Sleeping Pills Safe for Seniors?

By 8  am on

Does your aging loved one experience persistent insomnia? Perhaps you’ve tried several sleep-promoting measures, all to no avail. Are you considering medication but you’re unsure if it’s the right decision? Here’s what medical authorities say about whether sleeping pills are safe for seniors to use. 

How Prescription Drugs Add Up

Prescription sleep aids often don’t help seniors get as many hours of sleep as they need. For example, a large FDA study of the sedative Sonata showed that it didn’t extend sleep time. Subjects slept an average of 6 hours and 20 minutes, and it took 36 minutes for them to fall asleep. Reported side effects included memory problems and daytime sleepiness. An extensive FDA study of another drug, Lunesta, revealed an average total sleep time of 6 hours and 22 minutes, and it took subjects 30 minutes to fall asleep. 

Additionally, many classes of sleep aids decrease the time spent in deep sleep, and sleep medications often have hangover-like effects. This is because they remain in the body longer than actually needed, and older bodies can’t easily metabolize drugs. Therefore, they persist in the system and can result in overmedication. 

For some seniors, failing to take medications correctly can have life-threatening consequences. Living with serious health conditions can make it challenging for seniors to age in place. However, they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional live-in care. Auburn seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more.

ER Visits Attributed to Sleep Aids

In July 2014, the CDC reported that a high number of emergency room visits were associated with prescription sleep aids. Approximately 30 percent of these ER visits resulted in hospitalization. Research also showed the use of Ambien accounted for the most visits. Seniors who go to the ER because of issues with sleep aids often arrive at the hospital confused, lethargic, or even injured from falls. 

If you aren’t always able to be with your loved one to make sure he or she takes medications correctly, consider hiring a professional caregiver. In-home care providers can benefit aging adults in a variety of ways. From cooking nutritious meals to offering timely medication reminders, the dedicated caregivers at Home Care Assistance are available to help your elderly loved one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Side Effects

In addition to the above dangers, sleeping pills often have the following side effects: 

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Impaired memory
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain

Drug Interactions & Dependence

Both prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids can interact with other medications. They’re especially contraindicated with drugs used to treat high blood pressure, kidney disease, and seizures. Nightly use of medication can also foster drug dependence. 

For seniors with health conditions that make it difficult to sleep through the night, having a professional caregiver close by can provide a sense of comfort. Many seniors prefer aging in place over moving to assisted living facilities. If your senior loved one needs assistance to remain safe and comfortable while living at home, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading Auburn homecare services agency. Our dedicated in-home caregivers can assist with meal prep, bathing and grooming, exercise, medication reminders, and many other important tasks. Call one of our Care Managers today at (334) 744-7100 to learn about the high quality of our in-home care services.


    Request Free Information or
    Schedule a Free in-Home Consultation