We're Exhausted

Most of us are exhausted... if your e-mails are anything to go by.

We recently answered a question about using melatonin to help you fall asleep at night. But lots of folks wondered about other sleep aids like Tylenol PM.

We're not surprised. At least 30% of Americans aren't sleeping well on a regular basis, with some surveys putting that number as high as 70%. And people are reaching for pills to help...

According to Consumer Reports, 30% of folks reported taking an over-the-counter sleep aid or supplement within the past year. And 48% of those folks said they used the drug several times a week.

Here's a list of some of the most common over-the-counter sleep aids:

  • Advil PM
  • Nytol
  • Simply Sleep
  • Sominex
  • Tylenol PM
  • Unisom
  • ZzzQuil

These medications contain a drug called diphenhydramine. This is an antihistamine used to treat allergic reactions. (It's the main ingredient in Benadryl.) A side effect of diphenhydramine is that it makes you sleepy. Pharma companies market this drug as safe and nonaddictive.

But there are side effects. Using these pills can cause constipation, dizziness, and even a hangover effect that results in feeling groggy and having poor coordination the following day.

Drugs like Benadryl are anticholinergics, which means they block a neurotransmitter in our nervous system called acetylcholine. We need this chemical in our brains to help with memory.

That's why long-term use of drugs like Benadryl contributes to dementia. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine discovered that people taking an anticholinergic for three years or more had a 54% higher risk of dementia than those taking it for shorter periods.

Many folks turn to pills before trying better, more natural ways of getting to sleep. If you're having trouble sleeping, try practicing good sleep hygiene.

As you know, we've written several times about proper sleep hygiene. This includes things like...

  • Keep your room dark and cool.
  • Don't have electronics in the bedroom and shut off screens one hour before bed.
  • Make the bedroom a place only for sex and sleep.
  • Skip the nighttime snacking.
  • Cut back on caffeine.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule.
  • Use white noise to block outside sounds.

But if you find these tips aren't enough, remember this one important rule: Only take sleeping pills for two weeks or less. And if you take one, avoid the pain relievers. Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness, is generally the safest and recommended by sleep-study experts.

However, if you still have trouble sleeping after two weeks, go to your doctor. Sometimes medical conditions such as heartburn or anxiety can keep you tossing and turning.

Whatever you do, make sleep a priority this year. Sleep helps the brain properly clear out waste and helps your body function properly.

Keep your questions coming our way at [email protected]. We read every e-mail. Here are some other things on your minds this week...

Q: You have written about the evils of sugar, flour, etc., and it does make sense. You have also written about artificial sweeteners and how they cause blood sugar to spike, but you gave short service to stevia, which I understand does not cause a spike in blood sugar. Does that make it OK, in moderation? – A.T.

A: For the past several years, the only sugar substitute we haven't warned folks against is stevia. Stevia is a natural, plant-based sweetener. It's in brand-name sweeteners Truvia and Pure Via.

A review published last year in EXCLI Journal looked at past research that found stevia extract has several potential health benefits, including controlling blood sugar, lowering hypertension, and fighting damage from free radicals with its antioxidant traits.

Unfortunately, much of the recent research focused on rats – not studies with human subjects. But we do know that it could cause someone's blood pressure to fall to dangerously low levels if they're already taking blood-pressure medication.

So unlike most artificial sweeteners, we don't already know that stevia is harmful – but we're not ready to recommend it yet. We'll keep an eye out for any new research.

Q: Are gold and gold stocks the same? – K.T.

A: This is a question we've gotten a lot lately. Buying physical gold isn't as simple as buying gold stocks. You have to find a reputable dealer, figure out where to store it, and then accept that gold pays no interest or income.

So it depends on what you ultimately want to hold gold for. If you're wanting to hold gold in case of a major currency, economic, or societal collapse, you'll have to make the effort to buy physical gold.

But if you just want some gold in your portfolio as a chaos hedge, go for the easier option – gold stocks.

To us, gold stocks count as a chaos hedge just like physical gold. The quickest and easiest way to get direct exposure to the price of gold is through SPDR Gold Shares (GLD). The fund holds actual gold bullion in a London vault and tracks the price of gold well.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
March 25, 2022