Some drugs should only be used for a short amount of time. Here are the meds to watch out for
About 14 percent of adults ages 65 to 80 report regular use of prescription or OTC sleep aids. But this is a mistake, especially for older adults.
“These drugs tend to have a stronger effect in seniors’ bodies for longer than they do in younger people, making them more susceptible to side effects such as confusion and memory problems,” says Raj Dasgupta, M.D., assistant professor of clinical medicine at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
Sleeping pills more than double the risk of falls and hip fractures in older adults. And OTC sleep aid ingredients such as diphenhydramine (Advil PM, Aleve PM, Sominex, Tylenol PM, and generic) and doxylamine (Unisom and generic) have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive problems and dementia in seniors.
What to do: If you find that you are using an OTC or prescription sleep aid for more than a few days in a row, Dasgupta strongly suggests that you ask for a referral to a sleep specialist—who may recommend short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy.
This teaches you strategies such as how to calm your mind when you are trying to sleep. “If you stick with it for a couple months, you’ll really see the benefits,” Dasgupta says.
Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports chief medical adviser, recommends gradually lowering your dose over a period of weeks.