Health Care Stagnation: Sleep

The January 2011 issue of Bottom Line/Health has an article called “Dirty Drugs” about popular drugs with bad side effects. It is based on an interview with an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard named James Rudolph. It contains the following:

Insomnia. Most OTC drugs taken for insomnia, including the allergy medicine Benadryl and sleep aid Sominex, contain diphenhydramine. It can cause constipation, difficulty concentrating, urinary retention, and trouble with eye focus — and stays active in the body for 12 to 18 hours, which can cause next-day grogginess.

My advice. Avoid taking diphenhydramine for insomnia.

Better. Practice good sleep habits. Examples: Go to bed at a reasonable hour, and maintain the same schedule every night. Exercise regularly but not within two hours of bedtime — it will make falling asleep more difficult. Take a warm bath before bed to help you relax.

I agree, insomnia drugs are bad news. But the “better” advice could be a hundred years old.

Effect of one-legged standing on sleep. Six signs of the profound stagnation in health care.

8 Replies to “Health Care Stagnation: Sleep”

  1. Great point, but I’d say sleep — along with nutrition, weight loss, and a variety of other syndromes — are sub-medical. How many people see a doctor complaining about sleep disorders? And given the costs, should they?

  2. charlie, sleep apnea is one major cause of sleep problems, and while the medical solutions (CPAP etc.) don’t work for everyone, they seem to work very well and safely for a lot of people.

    CPAP strikes me as being somewhat in the spirit of Seth’s approach– I don’t know whether it started with self-experimentation, but it does seem like a fresh, practical look at a problem.

  3. I recently discovered that eating fresh spinach helps me sleep quite a bit better, so I’ve started eating spinach salads with dinner. Without fail, when I wake up the next morning I can tell I had a much deeper sleep than normal. I’ve never noticed this effect with cooked spinach or frozen spinach, only fresh.

    What I’ve read indicates it’s due to the magnesium. I’ve been meaning to try a magnesium supplement to see if I get the same effect, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  4. “I’d say sleep — along with nutrition, weight loss, and a variety of other syndromes — are sub-medical.” I agree – and a good sign of its sub-medicality is that the Dr. Rudolph’s advice to those with sleep problems is “go to bed and get a good night’s sleep – oh, and don’t have sleep problems.”

  5. I am curious about your views on using melantonin. I find it helps with sleep.

    Also, the amino acid typtophan seems to help relaxation to help sleep.

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