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Sleeping Pills Linked To Higher Risk For Cancer, Death

Evening Edition

Dr. Daniel Kripke, a researcher at the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center, talks with Joanne Faryon about a new study on sleeping pills.

Aired 2/29/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Daniel F. Kripke, M.D., Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center

Aired 2/27/12 on KPBS News.

Scripps researchers have found that eight of the most commonly prescribed sleeping pills significantly increase the risk of cancer and death.


— Scripps researchers have found that eight of the most commonly prescribed sleeping pills significantly increase the risk of cancer and death.

A five year study of nearly 40,000 patients found adults who take as few as 18 prescription sleeping pills a year have a four times higher risk of death from cancer than people who do not take sleep medication.

Sleeping Pills Linked to Increased Health Risks and Death

Ambien (Zolpidem)

Restoril (Temazepam)

Lunesta (Eszopiclone)

Sonata (Zaleplon)

Dalmane (Flurazepam)

Halcion (Triazolam)

Rozerem (Ramelteon)

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)

Study by Viterbi Family Sleep Center, San Diego

In addition, researchers said they were surprised to find a 32 percent increase in cancer cases among nightly sleeping-pill users.

Daniel F. Kripke, M.D., of the Viterbi Family Sleep Center at Scripps Health in San Diego, authored the study.

He compared the health risks of nightly sleeping pills to smoking.

“Taking a sleeping pill every night is associated with the same ballpark mortality as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day,” said Kripke.

But, that doesn’t mean you should abruptly stop taking prescription sleep medication, he added.

“Talk to your physician before you stop taking medication. The good news is there are things you can do that are without health risk in order to sleep better,” he said.

Kripke lists these top three tips for medication-free sleep:

-- Wake up at the same time every day, regardless of what time you went to sleep.

-- Go to bed only when you are tired and stay up until you are.

-- Get out of bed and the bedroom if you are not sleeping.

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Avatar for user 'Ramonaphd'

Ramonaphd | February 29, 2012 at 12:36 p.m. ― 5 years ago

The doses suspected of causing problems are really unlikely it seems to me, unless all of these medications are massively radioactive. What the hell? This seems to need a lot more replication!!

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Avatar for user 'bmcdannell'

bmcdannell | March 1, 2012 at 1:09 a.m. ― 5 years ago

Was this an April Fools item aired a month early? I'm neither a physician nor a scientist, but -

First red flag: Dr. Kripke has been trying to find a causal relationship between sleeping pills and cancer for 35 years by his account. To me, the questing nature of his research would make the alarming results he claims to have found highly suspect at the outset and subject to even more intense scrutiny than usual.

Second red flag: As I understand it, this study was conducted by doing computerized analysis of electronic medical records. I don't know when it became acceptable to do this sort of research without the ability to actually interview and monitor the subjects of the study, but if it is now acceptable, this study should illustrate why it shouldn't be.

Third red flag: I heard nothing in the doctor's presentation to preclude the (I suspect very strong) possibility that he has confused cause and effect. I would suggest - particularly in light of the fact that what he is espousing is so dramatically counter to anything previously found and so consistent over a wide range of sleep medications of disparate classes - is that what the doctor has actually discovered is not that people who use sleeping pills are more prone to cancer, but rather that PEOPLE WITH CANCER ARE MORE PRONE TO USE SLEEPING PILLS. Given that people living under a diagnosis of cancer are subject to the magnified stress of facing their mortality on a daily basis, it is only reasonable that those with cancer would often have difficulty sleeping and thus would be more prone to using sleep aids than those who are cancer-free. So my reaction to that finding would be...

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Avatar for user 'astrofan'

astrofan | March 1, 2012 at 11:47 a.m. ― 5 years ago

I hate to say it, but listening to Dr. Kripke is a pretty effective sleeping aid.

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