Living With Polio

Need More Meds? No

Post-Polio Health, Volume 27, Number 3, Summer 2011
Ask Dr. Maynard
Frederick M. Maynard, MD

Question: My father-in-law is 88 years old and has post-polio syndrome. He has had trouble sleeping for the past several years, and he claims that it “takes more medication for people with post-polio syndrome.” My wife is his caregiver and controls his medications so he will not overdose. What is your professional opinion?

Answer: Your father-in-law is mistaken about need for higher medication doses for post-polio people. Generally, they are more sensitive to medications and require lower doses because their bodies distribute medications differently through body tissues and fluids due to reduced muscle mass. I would be very careful with sleeping medication doses, in particular, because of their potential to affect breathing during sleep (suppression) and the likelihood of creating dizziness/balance problems on awakening (leading to greater falls risk) – both greater problems among polio survivors than the general population.

Encourage him to keep talking to his doctor about what is and is not helping and to try several different types of medications or other techniques to attain “good sleep” without just dangerously taking higher doses of prescribed sleeping pills.

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