Men's Health: 8 Ways to Ditch Drugs


Chronic toss-and-turner? Just give up. Go flip on Letterman. That's because cutting back your restless hours by delaying your bedtime could ultimately point you toward more solid slumber--and keep you off prescription sleep aids, says Lee Ritterband, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Virginia's department of psychiatry. That's good, because drugs like Ambien aren't permanent solutions. "Sleep medicines commonly lose their effectiveness over time because your body can grow used to them," says Men's Health advisor W. Christopher Winter, M.D., medical director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

If you usually go to bed at 10 p.m. but don't nod off until 1 a.m., try to hit the sack at 1 a.m.--but wake up the same time you ordinarily would, Ritterband suggests.

"You're creating some sleep deprivation, of course," he says, "but that makes it easier to fall and stay asleep on subsequent nights." After a few weeks of this, start pushing your bedtime up in 20-minute increments to see if you can maintain the gains.


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Instead of laxatives, try turning on the waterworks

Your colon moves. It twitches and tightens to keep things rolling down the line. But your colon can slow down or absorb too much liquid (for any number of reasons, including insufficient fiber in your diet, inactivity, dehydration, or certain meds), making waste linger and dry up. That's constipation. Americans spend about $725 million a year on over-the-counter laxatives, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Frequent users typically need to increase the dose over time because their bowels become dependent on the medicine. (Some laxatives create small bowel spasms to help things along.)

Eliminate the laxative habit by downing two full glasses of water before breakfast. Liquids add fluid to the colon and bulk to stools, making them softer and easier to pass. While you're at it, eat a banana or an apple.

"The bulk provided by their fiber stimulates the bowel to move in a rhythmic way--hence the phrase 'bowel movement,' " says Dr. Abramson.

"Why would you use something to irritate your bowel--which is what many laxatives do--when you can simply eat fruit instead?"

Asthma and Allergies

Instead of daily medicines, try an air filter

Instead of trying to change the way your body responds to irritants--that's how most asthma and allergy meds work--go after the irritants directly. Whole-house air filters and even portable units can significantly reduce the triggers that cause your wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing, says Ted Myatt, Sc.D., a senior scientist at the consulting firm Environmental Health and Engineering, near Boston. His 2008 study in Environmental Health found that high-efficiency in-duct air filters reduced cat allergens by up to 55 percent and fungal spores by up to 75 percent. Your doctor can tell you whether home filtering can minimize your need for an OTC or prescription drug.

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