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Ask Dr. Gott 1/31
Solid 40 winks hard to come by
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DEAR DR. GOTT: I often read your column in our local newspaper and am impressed with your practical wisdom. I would like to know if you have a cure for insomnia in postmenopausal women.
    I am a healthy, active, and happy 67-year-old female, but I, like many of my friends my age, have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep throughout the night. My guess is that this is a hormonal problem, but I have not found anyone who has a remedy. I have tried multiple remedies, and although I sometimes sleep well, there are times when I just cannot get to sleep, or else I wake up and spend several hours awake in the middle of the night. Do you know of anything that could help?
    DEAR READER: Insomnia is common in postmenopausal women, and it can be difficult to treat.
    As a first step, try melatonin. It's safe, inexpensive and often effective. If not, ask your doctor to prescribe Lunesta, a new product that shows great promise.
    Should that also fail, I recommend that you have an evaluation in a sleep laboratory. Such facilities are available in many large medical centers and hospitals.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Sleep/Wake Disorders."

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I'm female, 5 feet 7 inches tall and age 65. I used to be 5 feet 8-3/4 inches tall. What happened to that extra l-3/4 inch?
    Unless I asked my HMO doctor's assistants, they would not reveal the results of blood-pressure testing, weight or height checks. I was most concerned about the results of the high blood-pressure readings, so I never asked about my other measurements.
    Now I'm on Medicare with an excellent doctor. The assistant measured me and told me what she was writing down. I've had two other people measure my height. Yes, my wing span and height are 5 feet 7 inches. So, what happened to that extra height?
    DEAR READER: As we age, we shrink in height. This is not necessarily caused by spinal bone disorders. Rather, it is a consequence of age-related dehydration of the soft discs that separate our spinal bones. They shrink.
    To my knowledge, there is no known and accepted therapy for this condition. Like wrinkles and gray hair, a loss of height is inevitable.
    Let me conclude by emphasizing the role played by osteoporosis, especially in women. This disease, notable for fragile and brittle bones, can lead to what is known as compression fractures (nontraumatic crushing of the back bones) that, for obvious reasons, can cause a loss of height along with other problems, such as chronic back pain.
    I recommend that postmenopausal women undergo bone-density examinations every year or two. If the bones become too brittle, they may collapse, a consequence that can be prevented with appropriate medicine. However, painless loss of height (in the presence of normal posture) is an expected result of disc shrinkage.
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