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. 2016 May 19;5:918.
doi: 10.12688/f1000research.8729.3. eCollection 2016.

Hypnotic Drug Risks of Mortality, Infection, Depression, and Cancer: But Lack of Benefit

Free PMC article

Hypnotic Drug Risks of Mortality, Infection, Depression, and Cancer: But Lack of Benefit

Daniel F Kripke. F1000Res. .
Free PMC article


This is a review of hypnotic drug risks and benefits. Almost every month, new information appears about the risks of hypnotics (sleeping pills). The most important risks of hypnotics include excess mortality (especially overdose deaths, quiet deaths at night, and suicides), infections, cancer, depression, automobile crashes, falls, other accidents, and hypnotic-withdrawal insomnia. Short-term use of one-two prescriptions is associated with even greater risk per dose than long-term use. Hypnotics have usually been prescribed without approved indication, most often with specific contraindications, but even when indicated, there is little or no benefit. The recommended doses objectively increase sleep little if at all, daytime performance is often made worse (not better) and the lack of general health benefits is commonly misrepresented in advertising. Treatments such as the cognitive behavioral treatment of insomnia and bright light treatment of circadian rhythm disorders offer safer and more effective alternative approaches to insomnia.

Keywords: cancer; depression; hypnotics and sedatives; infection; insomnia; mortality; sleep.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: Since 1979 publication of hypnotics’ epidemiology from the American Cancer Society CPSI study, the author has been a frequent critic of hypnotics risks and benefits, especially through his non-profit internet web site,, that offers readers additional information and references about hypnotics. Dr. Kripke's family owns non-controlling stock in a large conglomerate that in turn invested a tiny percentage of its capital in Sanofi-Aventis and other manufacturers of hypnotics. The author has advised the USA Food and Drug Administration to take certain actions regarding hypnotics (Petition available at!docketDetail;D=FDA-2015-P-3959). Litigation to mitigate the leading hypnotic generics manufacturer and a leading California pharmacy provider has been commenced. The author has no other relevant affiliations or financial involvement with any organization or entity with a financial interest in or financial conflict with the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript. This includes employment, consultancies, honoraria, other stock ownership or options, expert testimony, grants or patents received or pending or royalties. No writing assistance was utilized in the production of this manuscript.

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Grant support

The author(s) declared that no grants were involved in supporting this work.

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