MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nearly seven percent of the population takes prescription sleep medications like Restoril or Ambien to sleep.

But the American Journal of Public Health says those who take these pills at night are twice as likely to have a car accident during the day.

Dr. Conrad Iber is the medical director of the Fairview Sleep Program at the University of Minnesota.

“One of the reasons that’s true is that sleeping pills stay in the body,” Iber said. “This is kind of a silent problem. You’re not aware of the fact that you’re impaired when you’re driving in the morning.”

The authors of the study compare these results to having a .06 to .11 blood alcohol level.

“We generally advise people not to take sleeping medicines lifelong. There are few individuals whom that might be necessary, but they’re a short-term solution, really,” he said.

Dr. Iber says sleep disorders are best treated first with cognitive behavioral therapy or lifestyle changes.

“Do go to bed at a regular time every night and get up at a regular time,” Iber said. “Your sleeping room should be quiet and dark and cool. More than three caffeinated beverages [daily] or after 3 o’clock in the afternoon [is] probably not a good idea.”

Lastly, Dr. Iber says get your mind into an idling mode a few hours before bed.

He also says this is not the only issue related to these medicines. There is also an increased risk of falls and bone fractures.

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