Seniors taking certain sleeping pills or anti-anxiety such as Ambien or Xanax could be facing a higher risk factor for dementia according to a 2010 Canadian study.
An average 25% of Canadians 65 and older use these medications on a regular basis. With the rate for those 85 years old going up to 30%.
"-Worldwide public health concern
"In this large, prospective, population based study of people who were free of dementia and did not use benzodiazepines until at least the third year of followup, new use of benzodiazepines was associated with a significant, approximately 50 per cent increase, in the risk of dementia," Bernard Begaud of the University of Bordeaux and his co-authors concluded.
"Our data add to the accumulating evidence that use of benzodiazepines is associated with increased risk of dementia, which, given the high and often chronic consumption of these drugs in many countries, would constitute a substantial public health concern."
The benzodiazepines included in the study were zolpidem, (Ambien), estazolam, flunitrazepam, loflazepate, loprazolam, lormetazepam, nitrazepam, nordazepam, prazepam, oxazepam, temazepam, tetrazepam, tofizopam, triazolam,, alprazolam, bromazepam, chlordiazepoxide, clobazam, clonazepam, clorazepate, clotiazepam, diazepam,and zopiclone.
With the news of this and other studies, patients are looking for alternatives to taking sedative hypnotics for sleep and benzodiazepines for anxiety.
One study that has shown promise as an alternative to these medications, entitled: "A Pilot Study of Z- -"-Score Sensorimotor and Individualized Neurofeedback" revealed a significant improvement in both sleep latency, (the time is takes to fall asleep) and total sleep time using a popular non-invasive form of brainwave biofeedback, or neurofeedback.
The study, conducted in 2011 by Hammer, B.U., Colbert, A.P., Brown, K.A. and Ilioi, E. C. used a form of neurofeedback called Z-score, which uses a built in EEG normative database to compare the patients own EEG patterns to that of normal, healthy brain scans of the same age group and gender. The software then retrains the brain back to a healthy "standard deviation of improvement" in about twelve to twenty sessions. Neurofeedback has also shown to be beneficial in easing the withdrawal symptoms associated with a side-effect called rebound insomnia which is caused by the reduction of Ambien or Lunesta within the bloodstream. Rebound insomnia has been known to create severe sleep disturbances for up to four to ten days, depending on the dosages and length or treatment.