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Media Opportunity: Dalhousie researchers examine insomnia in bid to address some of the highest rates of sleeping pill use in the country

Posted by Communications and Marketing on January 22, 2021 in News

Many of us know what it’s like to have the occasional sleepless night, but as we get older our sleep changes in ways that make sleep less satisfying overall. It can become more fragmented and we can end up spending less time sleeping and more time trying to get to sleep.

People will often turn to sleeping pills in the hope that short-term use will fix their difficulties with sleep, not understanding that the benefits are short-lived and dependence can develop quickly, leading to months or years of use. Moreover, those who stop using sleeping pills often struggle with withdrawal symptoms -- most notably poor sleep -- that can set in after only two weeks of taking them, setting up a vicious cycle of rebound insomnia.

Older adults are at higher risk for sleeping pill harms, including memory problems and falls. Atlantic Canada has been shown to have the highest rate of sleeping pill use among older adults, with New Brunswick leading the way. The Canadian average is 10 per cent of people 65 and older regularly using sleeping pills. In New Brunswick, the rate is 25 per cent. 

Dr. David Gardner, a professor in Dalhousie’s Department of Psychiatry, recently launched YAWNS NB, a project aimed at helping people become less reliant on sleeping pills and learn new, effective and safer ways to get a good night’s sleep. He and colleagues from the University of New Brunswick and the Universite de Montreal are researching whether educational packages delivered by mail to seniors in New Brunswick could help people improve their sleep and become less dependent on sleeping pills.

Dr. Gardner is available on Monday, Jan. 25 to discuss the YAWNS NB (Your Answers When Needing Sleep in New Brunswick) project and how sleeping pills may not be the best way to address changes in sleep that occur naturally as we age. Please contact us to schedule an interview.

If interested in finding out more or participating in the study, please contact:

Toll free: 1-844-929-6762 (1-844-YAWNS-NB)
Study website:

Media contact:

Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Dalhousie University
Cell: 902-220-0491