A single pill may cause more falls in hospitalized individuals than aging, delirium, insomnia or cognitive impairment, according to a new report.
Patients who were prescribed Ambien to help them sleep saw a four-fold increase in their risk of falling, according to researchers from the Mayo Clinic.
As a result of these findings, Mayo is beginning to phase out Ambien use in their facilities, says Timothy Morgenthaler, chief patient safety officer.
"We calculate that for every 55 patients who received [Ambien], there was one additional fall that may have been avoided by not administering the drug," he says in a press release.
According to Morgenthaler, because the study didn't consistently track what time of day people were falling, it's difficult to say whether or not the tumbles were the result of sleep-walking—a sometimes-cited side effect of Ambien. However, based on several test cases, he says that nocturnal falls appeared to be more common.
Falls pose particular risk for elderly
One in 55 may not sound like much, but if that one person is a senior, a fall could mean the difference between life and death (or, serious injury).
Falls are the number one cause of injury death for people age 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Unlike many of the other ailments that afflict the elderly, death rates from falls have increased over the past ten years.
How to obtain a drug-free doze
According to Morgenthaler, Mayo plans to start switching out sleeping pills for non-pharmaceutical methods of helping patients catch some Zs.
There are a variety of drug free techniques to help struggling insomniacs get a better night's sleep.
Read on to discover what strategies might work best for you and your loved one:
11 Tips for the Best Sleep Ever
Diet Strategies for a Sounder Snooze
7 Snooze-Inducing Yoga Poses