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How safe are insomnia medications for seniors?

Dr. Aruna V. Josyula, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

Many of the common medications for insomnia are not appropriate nor safe for seniors. Over-the-counter sleep aids have diphenhydramine as the main ingredient, which can be dangerous for the older adult as it causes greater incidence of cognitive impairment, of falling and of car accidents.

The side effects of diphenhydramine on a person's cognition can cause lingering sedation and an increased risk of falls. Falling comes with consequences including hip fractures, head traumas and shoulder injuries. These are not injuries you recover from easily and can take you from being high functioning to being dependent on others for your care.

Don't try to treat insomnia with over-the-counter medications. Continue talking with your doctor until you have found a solution.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.