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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Barometric pressure causes sleepless nights

Peter H. Gott, M.D.

Dear Dr. Gott: I read your column in our local paper and have found your advice to be great. I have a question about sleeplessness, however, that I have never seen addressed in your column.

I have had trouble sleeping all of my life. My 35-year-old son has the same problem, and his is much worse than mine. He was smart enough to notice that when the barometric pressure changes or a front comes through our area, he does not sleep. It doesn’t matter whether it is a high- or low-pressure front, he doesn’t sleep. When the pressure is about to change during the day, he becomes very nervous, distressed and uncomfortable.

Is there any advice or help you can suggest? He is a professor at a university and needs to be alert and able to conduct his classes in a normal manner.

Doctors have prescribed sleep medication for him, but some cause hallucinations or next-day grogginess, which he finds difficult to deal with since he is in class all day. I try not to sleep during the day in order to sleep well at night, but some nights I also remain awake all night.

I would appreciate any advice you could give us on this matter.

Dear Reader: Temperatures and barometric pressure can have an enormous impact on sleep patterns. Your son was wise to make the connection regarding those sleepless nights. While I don’t doubt the reasons for his insomnia, I suggest he speak with his physician to rule out other possibilities. Sleep apnea, snoring, stress, pain, tension, some medications and a host of other causes could contribute to sleepless nights.

If at all possible, I suggest installing central air in your homes as a means of barometric control. While I know the process is expensive, it’s very difficult to put a price on a good night’s sleep. Another option is melatonin, the hormone our bodies make from serotonin in an attempt to promote sleep. It is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light. This over-the-counter medication is much safer than many prescription medications and for most doesn’t carry unwanted side effects. Be sure to follow packaging inserts provided by the manufacturer.

To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Sleep/Wake Disorders.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a check or money order for $2 to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.

Dr. Peter Gott is a retired physician. He writes for United Media.
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