Pharmacologic Treatment of Disturbed Sleep in the Elderly

Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. carl
Harvard Review of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 1.73). 09/2008; 16(5):271-8. DOI: 10.1080/10673220802432442
Source: PubMed


Disturbed sleep is common in the elderly, who, as a group, take a disproportionately large number of hypnotic medications. Benzodiazepine hypnotics, as well as the newer benzodiazepine receptor agonists, are the primary treatments for these late-life sleep disorders and are effective and safe when used within recommended prescribing guidelines. The elderly also receive other psychiatric medications to induce sleep, although these are off-label uses not well supported by research literature. There is also no literature support for the use of over-the-counter sleep preparations, although both melatonin and a melatonin receptor agonist appear to be moderately effective and safe. Prescribing guidelines for the elderly continue to emphasize short-term, low-dose use, with short-half-life medications. Hypnotic drugs should be used in conjunction with nonmedication treatments, including appropriate sleep hygiene practice, and treatment of other medical or psychiatric causes of disturbed sleep.

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