Treatment of Insomnia

By changing your sleep habits and talking about any issues that may be related to insomnia, like stress, medications can restore restful sleep for a lot of people. If these measures don’t work, your doctor may suggest cognitive behavioral therapy, medications or both, to help improve sleep and relaxation.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can help you control or get rid of negative thoughts and actions that keep you awake and is usually suggested  as the first line of treatment for people suffering with insomnia.

The behavioral part of CBT-I helps you keep good sleep habits and avoid actions that doesn’t let you sleep well. These strategies involve:

  • Relaxation techniques. Muscle relaxation, breathing exercises are ways to reduce anxiety at bedtime. By practicing these, you can control your breathing, heart rate, mood and muscle tension which helps you relax.
  • Stimulus control therapy. By this method, you might able to remove all those factors that make your mind resist sleep. This method helps remove factors that condition your mind to resist sleep. For instance, you might be coached to set a consistent bedtime and wake time and avoid naps.
  • Remaining passively awake. This therapy is for learned insomnia that aims at reducing the worry and anxiety about not being able to sleep after getting in bed and trying to stay awake rather than expecting to fall asleep. This condition is also called paradoxical intention.
  • Sleep restriction. This therapy method decreases the time spent in bed and avoids daytime naps that causes partial sleep deprivation, which makes you more tired the next night.

Prescription medications

Sleeping pills prescribed by the doctor can help you get to sleep, stay asleep or both. Doctors usually don’t recommend depending on prescription sleeping pills for more than a few weeks, but several medications are approved for long-term use.

Examples include:

  • Ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, Zolpimist)
  • Zaleplon (Sonata)
  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta)

Prescribed sleeping pills may have side effects, such as risk of falling, causing daytime grogginess or they can be habit-forming (addictive), so consult with your doctor about these medications and other possible side effects.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Regardless of age, insomnia usually is treatable. The key mostly lies in changes to your routine during the day and when you go to bed. These tips may help.

Basic tips:

  • Stay active. Regular activity and staying active promotes a good night’s sleep. Schedule exercise at least a few hours before bedtime.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Keep your bedtime and wake time fixed and consistent, including on weekends.
  • Avoid or limit naps. Daytime naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Avoid naps or keep your nap time not more than 30 minutes.
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol and don’t use nicotine. All of these can make it harder to sleep, and effects can last for several hours.
  • Don’t put up with pain. If a painful condition is making it hard for you fall asleep, talk to your doctor about options for pain relievers that are effective enough to control pain while you’re sleeping.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages before bed. A light snack is fine and may help avoid heartburn.

Alternative medicine

Many people never visit their doctor for insomnia and try to cope with sleeplessness on their own. Although in many cases safety and effectiveness have not been proved, some people try:

  • This dietary supplement is marketed as a sleep aid because it has a mildly sedating effect. Discuss it with your doctor before trying it. On taking high doses or using valerian for a long term, one can have liver damage, although it’s not clear if valerian caused the damage.
  • This over-the-counter (OTC) supplement is sold as a way to help overcome insomnia. It is usually considered safe to use melatonin for a few weeks, but no convincing evidence exists to prove that melatonin is an effective treatment for insomnia, and the long-term safety is unknown.

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