Sleeping pills can improve a person's memory and lower the risk of dementia, a US study has claimed.
Researchers from the University of California Riverside believe the drugs provide a mechanism which enables the brain to consolidate memories.
Lead by Dr Sara C Mednick, the study looked at the role sleep plays in maintaining memories in the hippocampus – the part of the brain which consolidates information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
And it found that even the most common sleeping pills can be used to increase "verbal memory".
"This is the first study to show you can manipulate sleep to improve memory. It suggests sleep drugs could be a powerful tool to tailor sleep to particular memory disorders," Dr Mednick said.
The study's findings are being seen as controversial as they are in stark contrast previous research, most notably a study conducted at Universite Bordeaux Segalen in France last year which linked common sleeping pills, such as benzodiazepines, with an increased risk of dementia.