Feelings on sleep medication?

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Question from Barbie: What are your feelings on sleep medication?
Answers - Patricia A. Ganz, M.D. Sleep medication may be very helpful to some women, particularly if you're having difficulty sleeping on an occasional basis because of pain after surgery or if you're having difficulty with anxiety or stress. Long term sleep medication may not be the best solution and it may be best to obtain a better understanding of why you're not sleeping well. One of my colleagues here at UCLA will be starting a study to test whether tai chi may be helpful in sleep management for women after breast cancer. Part of the thought here is that this kind of exercise has both a physical and a relaxation component to it. There are many aspects to sleep disturbance, which may be related to lack of physical exercise during the day, as well as the inability to relax. So we need to understand what's really causing the sleep disturbance. Is the individual anxious and can't fall asleep, or are they being awakened by hot flashes, which is a physiological problem? Or if the problem is sleeping and napping during the day due to fatigue, then they don't feel tired at the time they should be sleeping at night. All of these issues have to be reviewed very carefully and if one can identify the cause of the sleeplessness it's far better to treat that condition rather than use medication. Again, medications are fine for short term problems that disrupt sleep such as pain and anxiety. But if there is a chronic ongoing sleep problem, then it's important to try and find out what's causing it.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Thinking and Memory Challenges featured Patricia A. Ganz, M.D. and  moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about the memory and concentration challenges that can happen during and after breast cancer treatment.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in August 2006.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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