I am a 56-year-old man in good health. My main problem is that I have problems sleeping. I heard that listening to music in bed can help people fall asleep. Is this true, and how does it work? P.A., Manchester, England
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich replies:
Many people, in fact, use music in the hope that it fights sleep difficulties, according to a study published this month the open-access journal PLoS ONE.
Dr. Tabitha Trahan of the University of Sheffield in the UK headed the research time that prepared the first online survey on the use of music as a sleep aid in the general population.
Sleep loss, they wrote, is a widespread problem with serious physical and economic consequences. “Music might serve as a cheap, non-pharmaceutical sleep aid. However, there is a lack of systematic data on how widely it is used, why people opt for music as a sleep aid, or what music works.”
In total, 62% of the 651 respondents reported that they use music to help them sleep, describing 14 musical genres comprising 545 artists. Even respondents who don’t suffer from sleep disorders use music in their everyday lives to help improve the quality of their sleep experiences, and younger people with a stronger connection to music are significantly more likely to use music to aid sleep. The respondents also said they thought that music both stimulates sleep and blocks an internal or external stimulus that would otherwise disrupt sleep.
The study relied on self-reported answers and could only investigate respondents’ beliefs about how music helped them sleep, rather than drawing conclusions about music’s physiological and psychological effects. Nonetheless, the study provides initial evidence that many people use diverse types of music in the belief that it helps them sleep.
The researchers suggested that soft music not only relaxes people but also covers up annoying noise and provides distraction from disturbing thoughts and other outside influences.
I am very concerned about my girlfriend’s smoking, especially at night. She coughs so much that no medicine has helped. How can I get her to stop smoking? U.C., the Hague, the Netherlands.
Dr. Laura Rosen of the department of health promotion in Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine’s School of Public Health
Your girlfriend MUST see a physician immediately about her cough.
The physician should also be able to provide guidance on how and why to quit smoking. There are medications to kick the habit as well as smoking-cessation courses that can be effective. You should encourage her to want to stop smoking. Good luck to her and to you, and may she have a speedy and complete recovery from the cough and from the smoking!
I am 27 and pregnant for the first time, at five weeks. I suffer from nausea about five or more hours a day, day and night. Fortunately, I don’t vomit much food, but if feel as if my stomach is turned upside down. I don’t have much appetite and can’t get poultry, meat or cooked food down. My doctor says my pregnancy is normal. Are there any safe drugs that are effective against ‘morning sickness’ that bothers me not only in the morning? Are there any ‘tricks’ I can try, such as taking a natural product or deep breathing to minimize my nausea? S.I., Miami, Florida, USA
Prof. Arnon Samueloff, a leading obstetrician at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, and Dr. Chana Katan, a veteran Israeli obstetrician, comment:
Nausea and vomiting – called “morning sickness” even though it does not occur only during the earlier hours of the day – affects some 80% of pregnant women, usually during the first trimester, some a lot and some much less. It is caused by the rush of female hormones that prepare the embryo/fetus for gestation and delivery.
In severe cases, it can result in dehydration and even hospitalization. Many women report that they become very sensitive to the smells of cooking and even of washing powder.
The 3% of women who suffer from severe side effects – hyperemesis gravidarum – can vomit dozens of times a day, causing damage to the esophagus, teeth and gums because of the gastric acid. In some women, it leads to depression. In most cases it ends after three months, but some women suffer from it throughout the pregnancy.
To ease mild nausea, one can eat ginger in various forms, even cooking it into a soup. However, it won’t help in serious cases. There are also various vitamins, such as from the B family, that can help if women have vitamin deficiencies. They can be taken as a rectal suppository, whose contents are easily absorbed, if the woman vomits.
You should drink a lot of water – at least three liters a day – so that if you vomit, you will not become dehydrated and your kidneys won’t be harmed. Dehydration can cause contractions of the uterus, which is dangerous to the fetus.
Some claim that morning sickness has an emotional element, perhaps even including opposition to the pregnancy. It’s hard to generalize about whether there is such a connection, but some gynecologists prescribe antidepressants to pregnant women who suffer from it. One must strengthen women emotionally during pregnancy, especially if they have a family history of depression or if diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum in the past.
I am always moved by women who go through this condition pregnancy after pregnancy and still manage to go on and bring new life to the world.
As for medications for morning sickness, besides ginger (which is also available in capsules in health food stores), pregnant women can safely take doxylamine (an antihistamine) and pyridoxine (vitamin B 6) to reduce nausea. It may make you sleepy, so best to take the drug before going to bed. There are several other drugs for easing nausea in pregnant women that are safe. I suggest that you first try paramine. If that is not effective, try diclectin. In severe cases, one can get Zofran by injection and paramine suppositories. As a second line of treatment, there is promethazome gel for the skin.
If you want an Israeli expert to answer your medical questions, write to Breaking Israel News health and science senior reporter Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at firstname.lastname@example.org with your initials, age, gender and place of residence and details of the medical condition, if any.