Sleeping pills increase the risk of dementia and falls in elderly people

About a third of pensioners use tablets to nod off but are unaware they might be damaging their health, according to research.

British and US studies suggest sleeping pills double the risk of fracturing a hip by causing drowsiness the next morning.

And a team of French and Canadian scientists also found taking them for only three months raised the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly by more than half.

The US National Poll on Healthy Ageing looked at more than 1,000 people aged 65 to 80, and found a worrying 37 per cent used a sleeping supplement.

Dr Preeti Malani, of Michigan University, said: “Although sleep problems can happen at any age and for many reasons, they can’t be cured by taking a pill, either prescription, over-the-counter or herbal.

“Some of these medications can create big concerns for older adults, from falls and memory issues to confusion and constipation.

“Anyone having trouble sleeping should talk to a doctor.”