Sleeping pill ignites horrible heartburn


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. Recently, 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 such as zolpidem (Ambien) and temazepam (Restoril). That was one of the 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.

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.

Q. My 17-year-old granddaughter has a problem with smelly feet. My son had the same problem at that age. Do you have any home remedies to recommend?

A. Readers have shared lots of home remedies for foot odor. Here is one: “Years ago, my stepson, age 15, had such stinky feet that even he couldn’t stand them. His aunt came to visit, and when the boy came home, his mom said, ‘Don’t take those shoes off in here!’ The aunt asked why, and his mom explained we couldn’t stand the odor. The aunt reminded her of the old rhyme — zinc for stink.

“We bought a bottle of zinc pills. A whole tablet made him sick to his stomach, so we cut the pills in half. After a month, his feet no longer smelled, and he didn’t need the zinc anymore.”

Other people have found that soaking feet in a baking soda, dilute vinegar, Epsom salts or strong tea solution can be helpful. You can find more details in our free Guide to Smelly Feet at

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site:

2012 King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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