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home : features : vitality February 05, 2016

3/9/2013 9:57:00 PM
Melatonin helps travelers overcome time-zone change jet lag
Courier Columnist

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I am traveling to England. Whenever I travel across the ocean, I have a hard time adjusting. I'm usually fatigued and irritable for several days. I have heard that melatonin might help. Is this true and when should it be taken?

A: Yes, several studies have shown that melatonin can speed up one's adaptation to new time zones, referred to as jet lag. Start taking about 3 to 5 mg of the melatonin for two days at home. Take it at the time that would be bedtime at your destination. Then continue it at night at your destination for about three days. I think you will find that you adapt much quicker to the new time zones of your destination.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

My wife has myotonic dystrophy. She also has sleep apnea. She was placed on a CPAP and she wears it faithfully every night, yet she is still as sleepy as ever. What would be the reason for this?

A: Myotonic dystrophy is the most common form of muscular dystrophy. Associated sleep apnea due to muscle weakness is very common. However, severe sleepiness even in the absence of sleep apnea is also common. This may be due to involvement of the disease with areas of the brain that promote wakefulness. Medications used to promote wakefulness have been used very successfully in these people. I would discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

Is it true that the position I sleep in can affect my acid reflux? I get frequent night time attacks that wake me up.

A: First of all it is important that you not eat within two hours of bedtime. However, having said that several studies have shown that sleeping on the left side decreases acid reflux from the stomach back into the esophagus. This can be difficult to accomplish since we tend to change sleeping positions every 40 minutes while asleep.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I have been on CPAP for several years. I saw a sleep specialist recently. He looked at a computer chip in my machine. He said it indicated that I was not on the correct pressure and wants me to return to the lab for a new test. What do you think?

A: He is referring to what we call a smart card. Most of the newer machines have the ability to estimate whether you are having persistent respiratory events such as apneas when you are wearing your mask. They are fairly accurate. Recent studies have shown that if the number exceeds 10 per hour there is a good probability that your pressure needs to be readjusted.

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