A recent study suggests that older people who regularly use sleeping pills may end up needing more blood pressure medications to control their blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a common condition among older aged people. Fortunately, blood pressure medications can reduce blood pressure and therefore reduce the cardiovascular risks associated with the condition.
Sleep difficulties with initiating or maintaining sleep are also commonly reported in about half of older aged adults, with many managing this with the use of sleeping pills. Although some studies have suggested an association between sleep patterns and blood pressure in middle-aged adults, associations in older aged adults is less clear.
In a recent study published in Geriatrics & Gerontology International, researchers in Spain examined whether regular use of sleeping pills in older aged adults was linked to increased use of blood pressure medications. A random sample of older adults, aged 60 years and older, was followed from 2008 to 2010 until 2012 to 2013. Data on sleep and blood pressure medication usage was self-reported by the participants.
Recognizing that effective blood pressure control often requires a combination of blood pressure medications, the researchers focused on the change in the number of blood pressure medications being taken at baseline versus during follow-up. This was determined by subtracting the number of blood pressure drugs taken from 2008 to 2010 from the number being taken from 2012 to 2013.
Patients who increased use of sleeping pills also increased blood pressure medications
The study found that 20.7% of patients had an increased number of blood pressure medications during follow-up. These patients often had a higher average number of other diseases, slept fewer hours per day, used sleeping pills more frequently, were on a lower average number of blood pressure medications, and had a higher frequency of uncontrolled blood pressure at baseline compared to patients who had no change or a fewer number of blood pressure drugs being taken during the follow-up period. This outcome was seen regardless of sleep patterns (quality and duration of sleep), body mass, diet, physical activity and blood pressure control.
The study also noted potential reasons for their result. One explanation may be that some sleeping pills can increase sleep-disordered breathing, which may be associated with high blood pressure, according to prior studies. In animal studies, some sleeping pills were shown to reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure drugs at lowering blood pressure, however, this has not been confirmed in humans.
Although further studies are needed to confirm the link between the use of sleeping pills and the need for blood pressure medications, the study concludes that clinicians should recognize that regular use of sleeping pills in older aged adults warrants further investigation into unhealthy lifestyles or underlying sleep disorders.
Written by Maggie Leung, PharmD
- Hernández‐Aceituno, A., Guallar‐Castillón, P., García‐Esquinas, E., Rodríguez‐Artalejo, F., & Banegas, J. R. (2019). Association between sleep characteristics and antihypertensive treatment in older adults. Geriatrics & Gerontology International. doi:10.1111/ggi.13660
- Smith, P. (2019, April 3). Sleeping pill use linked to greater need for blood pressure medications. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/w-spu040219.php