Category Archives: Common Myths

Are Sleeping Pills Good for You?

17 Proven Tips to Sleep Better at Night

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Between a third to a half of Americans report sleep disturbance. Good sleep bolsters immune function and mental health, among other benefits. So, it is no wonder that people often reach for sleeping pills and other supplements. Before reaching for a pill, let’s think twice about the potential benefits and potential harms of sleep medication and what you can watch out for. Some people feel that medications could cause unwanted side effects, or believe that artificially inducing a natural body process could be detrimental. 


First, we can address prescription medications. Most prescription medications are sedative hypnotics, helping you go to sleep or stay asleep. These include a class of drugs called benzodiazepines which are anti-anxiety medications like Ativan and Xanax. Doses can range from 0.5 mg to 100 mg 3-4 times a day, depending on the individual and the specific medication that you’re taking. While they may be okay to use in the short term, they may be habit-forming and are associated with problems with memory and attention with prolonged use over time. 


Tolerance is a common problem with all prescription medications. After taking pills for a period of time, people need more than the usual dose to help them sleep (tolerance), which could lead to dependence (difficulty sleeping without the substance; symptoms of withdrawal without it). Some sleeping medications, benzodiazepines in particular, are also associated with misuse (non-therapeutic use) addiction (irrational and harmful behavior due to prioritizing the substance). 


Combining benzodiazepines and alcohol can cause a person to stop breathing and could result in death. Older people (>65 yrs) should steer clear from all sleep aids because sleep medication can stay longer in your system with age, and could  result in drowsiness and confusion which may contribute to falls and other injuries. Other general side effects include nausea, dizziness, and headaches.


Over-the-counter sleep aids are safe for occasional use.  If you find yourself considering them more than once in a while, It is best to consult a healthcare provider for specific advice. Sleep disturbance is associated with feelings of worry or despair.  Attention to your mental health may be in order.  


The best approach is to develop good sleep habits. Try sticking to a sleep schedule, limit caffeine intake close to bedtime, reduce stress by winding down the day with your favorite activity, and treating underlying physical or psychological conditions with your trusted provider.

Do microwaves cause cancer?

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Microwave ovens are appliances that dominate almost every kitchen in the United States. Since their increasing household use in the 1980s there were rumors of risk from microwaves. The Think Twice Blog exists because the momentum of such “myths” can carry them for decades after they are proved false. To this day, as we reheat our leftovers in a microwave, we may stop to think twice about whether the convenience of a quickly heated meal is worth the potential risk of exposure to microwave radiation. Afterall, the sun can cause cancer due to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and we have probably all heard not to stand too close to microwaves at some point in our lives. But do you actually have to worry about developing cancer from microwave radiation? 

Radiation is used to heat up our food. However, the radiation emitted by microwaves is low-energy. On the other hand, UV radiation is high-energy and can damage DNA in our cells. DNA damage can lead to cancer, which is why we protect ourselves using protective sunscreen. In contrast, microwave ovens only have enough energy to vibrate the water molecules in our food. This movement of water molecules creates the water vapor that heats and cooks our food, similar to how we generate heat when our hands rub together. The Minnesota Department of Health states irradiated energy passes through the food like”light through a window” which is also why food heated in a microwave is not radioactive after it is heated.

The potential harms of microwave radiation are minimal. Microwaves are very closely regulated to prevent high levels of radiation leakage through provisions such as safety locks to prevent the oven from operating when the door is open. The FDA allows 5 milliwatts per square centimeter of microwave radiation leakage two inches away from the microwave or farther, which is far below the level known to be harmful to humans. While we can decrease our exposure to microwaves by standing further from the device while it’s on, the waves emitted from this device are not dangerous to humans at any distance. 

Keep in mind that if your microwave is damaged in any way, it is best to not use it. However, in most cases, we can enjoy the convenience of microwaves without fear. No, the convenience of microwaves is not too good to be true. Enjoy those wonderful reheated seconds!

10,000 Steps: Just a Number?

We have all heard 10,000 as the magic number of recommended daily steps. In fact, your FitBit vibrates and fills the screen with streamers when you hit that step goal. But 10,000 steps is roughly equivalent to 5 miles, a distance that many of us don’t have the time to meet daily.  Does this mean that we aren’t reaching our optimal level of health? Research suggests that exercise has benefits with far fewer steps. 

The 10,000 step goal originated in the 1960’s in Japan, when a company was trying to promote fitness after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. This company created pedometers called Manpo-kei, which translates in English as “10,000-steps meter.” This was essentially a marketing tactic, but it took root over time. 

A study from 2019 put this number to the test and found that walking reduced mortality rates until about 7,500 steps a day, and then leveled off.  The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. This corresponds to just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. A brisk walk for 30 minutes is about 4,000 steps and has notable health benefits. 

Walking in any amount is good for your heart health and overall wellbeing. Physical activity can reduce your likelihood for many medical conditions, increase your mood and memory, improve your immunity, reduce stress levels, and much more. So, don’t worry too much about the specific number of steps. Go out and get a brisk 30-minute walk in today!