Pajamas are healthier for sleeping than clothes

MEDICAL MATTERS

March 17, 2006|By JUDY FOREMAN

Are there any hygienic or medical reasons for kids to wear pajamas, as opposed to clothes, for sleeping?

Yes. While it might seem reasonable to put a child to bed in comfy, loose-fitting clothes, there are two good reasons not to: Hygiene and fire.

Kids come in contact with a lot of bacteria during the day, and an evening bath can rinse some of those microbes away, decreasing the risk of infection, Dr. Lisa M. Asta, a San Francisco pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote in an e-mail.

Perhaps even more important: Put a child to bed in snug-fitting and/or flame-retardant pajamas to minimize the risk of serious burns in case of fire. Loose-fitting clothes can catch fire more easily than snug-fitting garments.

Check the label on sleepwear. Pajamas "should be labeled flame retardant," Dr. Joanne Cox, associate chief of general pediatrics for primary care at Boston's Children's Hospital, wrote in an e-mail.

Legally, pajamas "must pass the flame-retardant `flame' test, though this does not mean added chemicals," she wrote. Most cotton garments are probably not flame-retardant unless chemicals are added.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends buying fabrics that are difficult to ignite and tend to extinguish themselves, including 100 percent polyester, nylon, wool and silk.

Tightly woven fabrics or knits and fabrics without a fuzzy or napped surface are less likely to ignite than open knits.

Is there any way to treat restless legs syndrome?

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first medication specifically marketed for restless legs syndrome. Earlier this year, Mayo Clinic researchers reported that the drug, Requip, can significantly improve the annoying symptoms and improve sleep for many of the 20 million Americans who have the neurological problem. A similar drug called Mirapex is up for FDA review.

Restless legs syndrome is not fatal, but it can be a life-wrecker. When people with the syndrome are at rest, or trying to sleep, they get creepy-crawly feelings in the legs that can sometimes be relieved - for a short time - by movement.

This means that sufferers may get only get a few hours' sleep a night. The syndrome is believed to involve abnormalities in iron metabolism and production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, in parts of the brain that control movement.

Requip and Mirapex (already on the market to treat Parkinson's disease) increase activity in dopamine cells, said Dr. John Winkelman, medical director of the Sleep Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who consults for the manufacturers of Requip and Mirapex.

The leader of the Requip study, Dr. Richard K. Bogan, chief medical officer of sleep medicine at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, said the 12-week, multicenter study involved about 350 patients, about half of whom received a placebo, and half, Requip.

Neither doctors nor the patients knew who was getting the real drug, which proved significantly better.

Drug companies have paid for most of the research into these medications. This one was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Requip.

Send your questions to foreman@baltsun.com.

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