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Ask Dr. Gott 7/23
Sitting up cures insomnia
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 49-year-old male. For the last six to nine months, I have not been sleeping well. I have found a way to sleep soundly, but I want to ensure it will not harm me.
    After months of barely sleeping, I was so exhausted. One night, I fell asleep on the couch in a sitting position and found that I slept like a rock. I woke up in the morning feeling fine. Since then, I start out trying to sleep in bed but inevitably wind up back on the couch sleeping in a sitting position. I always feel fine in the morning but worry that this might do my body some harm down the road should it continue.
    DEAR READER: To the best of my knowledge, there is no harm in sleeping on the couch in a sitting position. I would imagine that this could cause some muscle stiffness upon waking, but if you are not experiencing any problems, I don't see any reason to stop.
    There are other safe options for insomnia. Some people experience remarkable results with the oldest home remedy, warm milk. I don't know why this works, but I suspect it has some ties to infancy. (Most babies fall asleep shortly after mealtimes.)
    One of the best remedies I have come across, however, is melatonin. This is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that stimulates sleep. During daylight hours, the brain produces serotonin, which aids in wakefulness. At night, however, the serotonin switches to melatonin. The only catch to this remedy is that the room must be dark. In today's society, many people have televisions or computers in their bedrooms and do not provide themselves with a dark, quiet, relaxing sleeping environment. Removing these devices from the room and taking a melatonin supplement one hour before bedtime could make a huge difference. Simply follow the instructions on the bottle, which can be purchased in most pharmacies, the vitamin/supplement aisle in grocery stores or health-food stores. It is not habit forming and is safe for long-term use, as it is a naturally occurring chemical within the body.
    If your insomnia persists, see your physician or a sleep specialist, because there might be a physical reason for your sleep problems, such as sleep apnea (periods in which you stop breathing while sleeping) or restless legs syndrome.
    You may wish to try a trial of prescription sleep aids such as Ambien or Lunesta. These, however, can be addictive, are recommended only for short-term use and may be expensive. There has also been huge media coverage of possible side effects, including sleep walking, driving and eating with associated amnesia of the event, aggressive behavior and many more. That said, these drugs work for thousands of people without side effects. Inappropriate use (long-term or excessive amounts) increases the risk of side effects. Ask your doctor about this option.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my newly updated Health Report "Sleep/Wake Disorders."
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