Research Links Sleep Aid to Increased Hip Fractures in Nursing Home Residents

Hip fractures in nursing homes are a major concern for our elderly population, and new research shows that medications commonly used to treat insomnia may put nursing home residents at higher risk for fall related fractures.

Hip-Fractures-In-Nursing-Homes-Cochran-Firm-OhioA study published by JAMA Internal Medicine shows nursing home residents who take non-benzodiazepines like Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta for insomnia, have a greater risk of suffering falls and hip fractures in nursing homes. After calculations, the study showed non-benzodiazepine sleep aids increased the risk of fractures by 66 percent.

Hip Fractures in Nursing Home

According to Reuters Health, 320,000 hip fractures in nursing homes occur each year across the country making fractures a major cause of disability among our senior population. Though physicians have known for a while that benzodiazepine drugs like Valium and Xanax were associated with a greater risk of falls and fractures for seniors, there hasn’t been as much information available on the risks of newer medicines used for insomnia. (https://news.yahoo.com/sleep-aids-tied-hip-fractures-elderly-193823658.html)

The new study examined the safety of drugs like Ambien for the elderly population specifically. To do this, researchers analyzed the medical records for 15,528 long-term nursing home residents over the age of 50 who had fractured a hip during 2007 to 2008. They found that a full 11 percent of the patients had been prescribed a non-benzodiazepine sleep aid prior to the injury. Researchers then calculated that sleep aids increased the risk of fracture by 66 percent. The researchers also found that residents who used sleep aids for less than two months were twice as likely to suffer a fracture as residents who were not taking sleep aids. (https://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1657760)

Lead author of the study, Dr. Sarah Berry from Hebrew Senior Life and Harvard Medical School recommends that physicians try to treat their elderly patients without the use of drugs. “Clearly not sleeping is a problem, but if we can address it without a drug then I think it’s safer for the patient,” she said. She told Reuters that non-drug treatments include encouraging residents to be more active and avoid napping during the day.

Sleep Aid Alternatives

Dr. Eric Widera from the University of California, San Francisco told Reuters that stopping the medications was not enough, and that doctors “have to introduce alternatives to prevent and treat sleeping disorders in this very frail population.” He suggests physicians attempt to discover what causes residents to have insomnia before prescribing any medication, saying sometimes it’s as simple as background noise.

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