The Checkup: Sleeping Pills Speed Death, Raise Cancer Risk

We could call this "The Sleep Issue."

• If you take sleeping pills, you might be getting more than you bargained for. A new study found that people who take prescription sleeping pills are four times more likely to die than people who don’t take them, and have an increased risk for certain cancers. HealthDay reports:

The new study only shows an association between the sleeping aids and death risk, not cause-and-effect, and many experts are urging caution in jumping to any conclusions from the findings.

The study author, however, was less reticent.

“Popular sleeping pills are associated with a shocking excess of deaths and a horrible increase in new cancers,” said Dr. Daniel Kripke, of the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center, in La Jolla, California.

The pills in question include name brands like Ambien and Lunesta and sedative antihistamines, among others.

• In other sleep news, a study of college students found that caffeine affects “morning people” (i.e. me) more than “night owls” (i.e. my husband)—which explains why he can have a cup of coffee in the afternoon and still go to bed at a reasonable hour. If I have coffee at lunch, I’m sunk for sleep.

• And in yet other sleep news (are you seeing a pattern here?), researchers found that, contrary to popular belief (and their own hypothesis), sleep actually gets better as you age, not worse. Adults in their 80s, they found, report better sleep than all other age groups.