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Dr. Val’s Health Tips: Causes And Cures For Childhood Insomnia

Thanks to support from, I’ve created a series of health tips for common medical concerns. This week’s article is about how to diagnose and treat sleep difficulties in children and adolescents. There are many possible causes of insomnia, which include everything from emotional distress to bad dreams, breathing problems, stomach pains, medical conditions or behavioral problems.

In my article I discuss how you can work with a healthcare professional to determine the cause of your child’s sleep difficulties (this includes details on how to keep a sleep diary). I offer instructive do’s and don’ts to promote healthy sleep, and offer examples of symptoms that may require medical intervention.

For the full article, please click here. I promise it won’t put you to sleep! ;-)

Understanding Melatonin: Are People Taking Too Much?


Many of my patients, over the years, have taken melatonin. Many other patients have asked me about it, but I’ve never had much to say. I hadn’t heard anything particularly bad about it, but couldn’t really recommend it. “Research melatonin” has been on my “To Do” list for a long time.

So here’s what I’ve discovered: Melatonin is a hormone. I’ve known that since medical school, of course, but that fact has struck me as peculiar these past few weeks. Why? Because it’s sold over the counter, and many people take massive amounts of it. No other hormone is available like this. The use of other hormones, such as insulin and thyroid hormone, need careful monitoring. Is melatonin so universally safe that it can be taken at any dose, for however long? The more we learn about melatonin, the less that seems to be the case. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Making Sense of Medicine*

Why Only Some People Experience High Altitude Sickness

Andrew in Colorado, Summer 2011

Hi! Greetings from Breckenridge, Colorado. At 10,000 feet, I am told it is the highest resort town in North America. The Rocky Mountain scenery is breathtaking. But there’s a problem for about one in four of us who visit here, especially people like me who live at sea level. We can get hit with high altitude sickness and a few days ago, I was one of the unlucky ones.

What happens is your body isn’t used to the thin air and your blood has difficulty getting enough oxygen to your body. It usually happens at altitudes over 8,500 feet. You get an ongoing headache, you feel tired, you have insomnia (I was sleepless for two nights!), you could have nausea and certainly fatigue. Drinking lots of water and passing up alcohol can help, but even then some people have problems.

When I finally saw a family doctor – Doctor P.J. – he told me it’s genetic. Some people have trouble “acclimatizing” and others don’t, but there’s no easy way to know who will be affected before you make the climb. Now that I know I have difficulty I will take a prescription medicine (Diamox) ahead of coming up here again.

Doctor P.J. says even Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

Dosage Disclosure Denied For Sleep Remedy’s “Perfect Blend”

A new product, Dream Water, is designed to help one relax, fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep using the “perfect blend” of all-natural ingredients melatonin, GABA and 5-HTP (tryptophan).

A single-dose 2.5-ounce bottle retails for $2.99. They also offer a more dilute formulation in an 8-ounce bottle. They suggest drinking half a bottle, keeping it at your bedside, and drinking more if you wake up during the night.

What dosage will you get from half a bottle? From a whole bottle? There’s no way to know. They offer a money-back guarantee, free shipping, free samples, and lots of testimonials. But they refuse to disclose how much of what is in their product. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Insomnia Treatment Tips From Actor Debi Mazar

Photo of Debi Mazar

Debi Mazar

You may know actor Debi Mazar from her work in the movie Goodfellas, and from her role as Shauna on the HBO hit TV show, Entourage. But I know Debi as a busy mom who struggles with insomnia.  I caught up with her a few days ago to find out how she’s coped with those sleepless nights.

Listen to the podcast here:

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Dr. Val: When did insomnia first become a problem for you?

Mazar: Insomnia is surprisingly common. It affects 60 million Americans: 40% of women and 30% of men. My struggle with insomnia began in my mid to late 20′s when my professional and love life went into full swing. I ate well and exercised, but started having trouble falling asleep every night. I went to see a doctor because I didn’t realize that there were many things that I could do about it on my own.

Dr. Val: What are some of the non-medical treatments that worked for you?

Mazar: Cutting back on caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, and exercising only early in the day, having a healthy sex life, and getting myself on a sleeping schedule. I also tried to reduce stress levels in my life by not going to bed angry, by unplugging from TV and the Internet, and I made my bedroom a very cozy, dark environment that would be condusive to sleep. When you’re a mom, sleeping pills aren’t a good option because you might have to get up in the middle of the night. I have a full list of insomnia tips at

Dr. Val: I bet that insomnia is a common problem in Hollywood. Has that been your experience?

Mazar: I don’t consider myself to be part of “Hollywood” I’m just an average mom who worries about the world we live in and our economy. The news can cause a lot of anxiety – regardless of what you do for a living. It keeps us all awake at night. Of course, chronic insomnia can increase our risk of depression, weight gain, diabetes and hypertension.

Dr. Val: What is the most important thing for Americans to know about sleep?

Mazar: Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself, so sleep is essential for good health. Without it, we all fall apart.

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