MONDAY, Nov. 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Despite researchers' hopes, prescription sleeping pills do not boost the effectiveness of therapy aimed at relieving obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a troubling condition marked by multiple nighttime awakenings. The gold-standard treatment is a therapy called "continuous positive airway pressure" (CPAP).
"CPAP treatment improves daytime alertness and quality of life for most patients with OSA and may prevent some of the long-term complications of this disorder, including heart attacks and strokes," study author Capt. David A. Bradshaw, of the Naval Medical Center, in San Diego, said in a prepared statement.
"Yet, many people find CPAP difficult to use. People with a good initial experience are more likely to use CPAP regularly. Our hypothesis was that a sleeping pill might help new CPAP users adjust to sleeping with the equipment and promote long-term usage," Bradshaw said.
In their four-week study, Bradshaw's group compared the effectiveness of CPAP among 72 newly-diagnosed male patients with obstructive sleep apnea.
They found that those who took sleeping pills were no more likely to use their CPAP machines than those who took a placebo.
Despite the study's findings, published in the November issue of Chest, Bradshaw said he and his colleagues believe that sleeping pills, when used correctly, may benefit certain patients with OSA.
"Studies have shown that almost half of patients with OSA have insomnia complaints. Our study does not support prescription sleeping pills for new CPAP users, but OSA patients with insomnia symptoms might benefit," he said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about CPAP and OSA.