Many older adults who have trouble sleeping take medication to help them sleep.
But in two new studies, researchers found that certain groups of people who take sleep medication may be at a higher risk of developing dementia.
In the research, the team examined the link between sleep medication and risk of developing dementia.
One study examines the difference between people from white and African American backgrounds, the other compares men and women who take sleep medication.
In the first study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, participants aged 70 to 79 were asked to indicate how frequently they took sleep medications.
A total of 172 people reported taking sleep medication over five times a month. The team used medical records and memory and thinking assessments to determine whether participants developed dementia.
They then compared the results for people from different racial backgrounds, and different genders.
They found in people taking sleep meds 5-30 times a month, white people are at a 79% higher risk while black people were less at risk of developing dementia.
There was no increase in risk for people who took sleep medication less frequently.
When comparing men with women the researches did not see any difference.
The second study looked at the difference in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in men and women over the age of 65 who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study.
Participants were asked whether they took sleep medication and underwent screenings for dementia once every three years for 12 years.
The team found using sleep medication was linked to a high risk of developing dementia in men.
In women, the results depended on whether they experienced sleep disturbance.
Women who reported having disturbed sleep and took sleep medications were at four times greater risk.
By contrast, women who did not have disturbed sleep and used sleep medications had a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The findings of the two studies show differences in the relationship between sleep medications and dementia in men and women and between racial groups.
It is important to explore how medications may affect different groups of people so that people receive treatments that are right for them.
The studies were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019.
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