Q. I have been taking Ambien for years, and in the past several months I have been using it nightly.
I started having problems with reflux, which I attributed to aging and stress. Last week, the problem became so severe, my esophagus felt like I had eaten ground glass.
I took anything I could to try to relieve the pain. Then I read in your column that Ambien could cause trouble with heartburn. I stopped taking it, and within less than a week, the pain has diminished. Today I have no reflux at all, which is wonderful, but I am feeling somewhat sleep-deprived. What can you recommend to help me sleep without this medication?
A. Serious heartburn is a common but often unrecognized side effect of sleeping pills like zolpidem (Ambien) and temazepam (Restoril). That was one of the surprising findings from a recent study, which also linked sleeping-pill use to increased mortality (BMJ Open, Feb. 27, 2012).
Discontinuing a sleeping pill suddenly can cause rebound insomnia. Gradual withdrawal is usually recommended. Alternative approaches such as magnesium, melatonin, hops or valerian may be helpful while your body is adjusting. Other possibilities, such as an acupressure wristband, lavender scent for the pillow or a hot bath before bed, also might help you get to sleep.
We are sending you our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep for more details on these and other helpful options. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. I-70, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoples pharmacy.com.
Q. A little while back, a person wrote that after a few months, the bar of Ivory soap under the bottom sheet no longer worked for nighttime leg cramps and had to be replaced.
We have been using Ivory soap in the bed ever since reading about it in your column. I’ve noticed the same thing and have accumulated several used bars.
I recently decided to try something. I took a sharp knife and scraped both sides of the bar until it was bright white again. It is working again, and I didn’t have to buy new soap.
A. Others have told us that shaving their soap renews its ability to prevent leg cramps. Remember, though, there is no waste. You can always use old bars in the shower.