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Fast Facts: How Sleeping Aids Can Negatively Affect Cognition

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When it comes to sleep aids, be aware that sleeping pills can affect your memory and cognitive abilities. This is particularly true with benzodiazepine-type sedatives, such as diazepam (Valium), temazepam (Restoril), lorazepam (Ativan), oxazepam (Serax) and alprazolam (Xanax and others). Medications in this class, whether short-, intermediate- or long-acting, have been shown to increase the risk of cognitive impairment and delirium in older adults. Consequently, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) recommends that drugs in this class not be used for the treatment of insomnia in seniors.

Short-term memory loss has been linked to the over-the-counter antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which is also an ingredient in sleep aids such as Tylenol PM and Unisom.

Newer sleep medications, including zolpidem (Ambien and others), eszopiclone (Lunesta) and ramelteon (Rozerem), have come under scrutiny because of reports that some people have experienced incidents like walking, eating or even driving while sleeping during the first few hours after taking the medication, yet having no memory of it the next day. These drugs carry warnings about the possibility that such incidents may occur.

As a further precaution, the FDA warns people who take zolpidem extended-release (Ambien CR)— either 6.25 mg or 12.5 mg—not to drive or engage in other activities that require complete mental alertness the following day because levels of the drug can remain high enough to impair these activities.

Posted in Memory on May 25, 2016


Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer


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