Benzodiazepines for insomnia in community-dwelling elderly: a review of benefit and risk.

To critically assess and summarize the beneficial effects of benzodiazepine therapy for insomnia in community-dwelling elders, a systematic search was undertaken to review all published clinical trials and sleep laboratory studies. The risk of injury for benzodiazepine users was also reviewed. Ten studies met inclusion criteria for assessing benefit. There are no studies regarding the long-term effectiveness of benzodiazepines for the treatment of sleep disorders in the elderly. In the sleep laboratory setting, triazolam 0.125 mg, flurazepam 15 mg, and estazolam 1 mg improved sleep latency by 27 to 30 minutes and increased total sleep time by 47 to 81 minutes for the first 2 to 3 nights of treatment, compared with baseline measurements taken while the patients were receiving placebo. In contrast to these modest short-term benefits, there is an association between the use of benzodiazepines with a long half-life, eg, flurazepam, diazepam, and chlordiazepoxide, and an increased risk of hip fracture in the elderly. Triazolam can cause rebound insomnia as well as anterograde amnesia. Clinicians should discontinue their prescribing of long-acting benzodiazepines for elderly patients with insomnia. More research is needed on the effects of nondrug interventions as well as on short- and intermediate-acting benzodiazepines, such as oxazepam and temazepam, to treat insomnia in community-dwelling elderly.
AuthorsR M Grad
JournalThe Journal of family practice (J Fam Pract) Vol. 41 Issue 5 Pg. 473-81 (Nov 1995) ISSN: 0094-3509 [Print] UNITED STATES
PMID7595266 (Publication Type: Comparative Study, Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Review)
Chemical References
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Benzodiazepines (adverse effects, pharmacology, therapeutic use)
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Hip Fractures (etiology)
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives (adverse effects, pharmacology, therapeutic use)
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Sleep (drug effects)
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders (drug therapy)

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