Advantages and disadvantages of taking Z drugs to treat sleep disturbance in people with dementia

Research presented at The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) recently shows that “Z-drugs” such as zolpidem, zopiclone and zaleplon, often prescribed to treat insomnia, could lead to an increase in falls for people with dementia.

Researchers from the Norwich Medical School University of East Anglia found that the use of Z-drugs is associated with a 40% increase in any type of fractures, with this risk increasing with higher doses of the medication.

Sleep disturbances are a common symptom of dementia, and can make life for the person with dementia, and their carer, really challenging. To tackle this, we’re funding research to better understand the importance of sleep in brain health.
However, the finding in this study that people who had taken Z-drugs to sleep were more prone to falls and injuries as a result echoes current research. We recommend personalised non-drug solutions, like avoiding caffeine or taking exercise in the day, to help with sleep.With dementia prevalence rising – the number is set to be 1 million by 2021 – only research will beat this devastating condition for good.

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society

Read ACNR’s article, “Falls as a result of being on Z-drugs for insomnia” in the May-July 2018 issue.