Question:

Can you explain why whenever I take Advil or Tylenol at bedtime I fall asleep so much faster and sleep so much better? They're not sleeping pills, but to me, they sure act like they are.

Answer: While Advil and Tylenol aren't sleeping pills or tranquilizers, they definitely do help many people sleep better. That's because many of us have aches and pains that annoy us at night - especially as we toss and turn in our sleep.

Rolling onto a bad hip or turning into a position that aggravates chronic low back pain, for example, can cause awakenings that may not be remembered.

Sometimes we know of the aches and pains, but often we don't make the connection between our pain and the quality of our sleep.

It sounds like you're one of those folks who sleeps more comfortably because there's a reduction in your pain. If you don't have any known muscle or joint pains during your waking hours, you might want to evaluate the condition of your mattress.

nolead begins

New shorts might not be the cause of discomfort

Q:

I have never had a problem in 68 years of not being circumcised. Three weeks after buying shorts made in South America, I developed an itch on my penis that led to swelling and an inability to retract my foreskin. Is there any cream or salve that will relax the foreskin back to normal?

A: You have balanitis, a marked swelling, pain and infection of the glans underneath the foreskin area. It's not a sexually transmitted disease; rather it's most often due to an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast.

The only way I can attribute the balanitis to your shorts is if they somehow caused a persistent irritation to the head of your penis. Balanitis can also come about as a result of using harsh bathing soap, poor hygiene, or poorly controlled diabetes.

The treatment involves addressing the underlying infection and reducing the inflammation. Combination treatments with topical steroid cream, antibiotic cream or pills, and over-the-counter antifungal cream are very effective. Only in the severest cases is circumcision advised.

Mitchell Hecht is a physician specializing in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: "Ask Dr. H," Box 767787, Atlanta, Ga. 30076.