Tags: sleep | pill | cut | concern

Cut Your Sleeping Pill in Half: Researchers

By    |   Tuesday, 04 August 2015 04:05 PM

If you’re among the nine million Americans who take prescription sleeping pills to treat chronic insomnia, you may be able to cut your pills in half and still get some shut-eye.

That’s the key finding of new research by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania that found insomniacs get relief from as little as half of the drugs they take, and may even be helped by taking placebos instead.

The findings, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, contradict standard prescription practices for chronic insomnia treatment by suggesting smaller and fewer doses of sleep drugs are best.

"The clinical effects of sleeping pills cannot be relied on to last forever, and long-term use increases risk of psychological dependence and side effects including daytime drowsiness, nausea, and muscle pain," said Michael Perlis, an associate professor in Penn's department of Psychiatry and director of the Penn Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program.

"Our research found that changing the industry standard for maintenance therapy can maintain treatment responses and lower the incidence of side effects."

Chronic insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights a week for at least one month.

The study involved 74 adults with chronic insomnia — the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at least three nights a week — who were treated with the sleeping pill zolpidem (Ambien) for four weeks.

The participants were divided into three groups for 12 weeks: one group nightly doses of 5- or 10-milligram Ambient pills; one received "intermittent dosing" of 10-mg pills three to five days a week; and a third was given nightly pills in which half were 10-mg capsules and half were placebo capsules.

All three groups were better able to fall and stay asleep, but those in the “intermittent” dosing group slept worse and had more medical symptoms than those in the other dosing groups.

"Our findings [suggest] a patient [start] with 10 mg nightly and then when the desired result is reached, switch to either a lower nightly dose or intermittent dosing with placebos on non-medication nights," said Perlis. "The full dose may or may not be required to get the initial effect, but certainly maintaining the effect can be done with less medication."

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You may be able to cut your sleeping pills in half and still get some shut-eye.
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Tuesday, 04 August 2015 04:05 PM
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