You don't have to suffer with sleepless nights forever. There are plenty of treatment options available. Many cases of insomnia can be remedied by following good sleep habits and a healthy diet, but behavior therapy or medication may be needed.
In order to best treat insomnia, it's important to determine whether or not an underlying issue or medical condition is causing the problem. Most cases of insomnia are a result of stress, or some other emotional or physical condition that needs to be treated separately. Many times when these conditions are successfully treated, sleep patterns return to normal.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Oftentimes it takes a few simple lifestyle changes to keep sleeplessness at bay. Go to bed when you are feeling tired and only use the bedroom for sleep. Other activities that stimulate the brain, like watching TV, reading, or eating should take place somewhere else in your home. Try to reduce the amount of stress in your life, and stick to a regular routine of wakefulness and sleep every day. Some other lifestyle habits you should follow include:
If you smoke, quit. Nicotine is not only a stimulant which can trigger insomnia, but smoking can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.
Visit the Smoking Cessation Learning Center to get tips to quit smoking.
Watch What You Drink
Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Alcohol is a sedative that may induce sleep initially, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and doesn't allow the body to fully rest. Long-term heavy drinking can also trigger high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
Caffeinated drinks, like coffee and soft drinks are stimulants that can disrupt sleep. Avoid drinking coffee or any caffeine in the afternoon.
Drinking too much of any fluid before bedtime can cause you to get up throughout the night with the need to urinate.
Exercising 20-30 minutes every day and at least five hours before bedtime is thought to relax the body and encourage a good night's sleep. Regular exercise can also help to prevent cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes.
Maintain a healthy diet, and avoid foods that are high in saturated fat which may cause heart burn and indigestion. These foods can be hard to digest, particularly when eaten late at night, and make it difficult to sleep.
These treatments can teach you how to make your environment more conducive to sleep. Often conducted by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other trained health care provider, studies have shown that behavior therapies are equally or more effective than sleep medications. Such therapies are often the first line of treatment for people with insomnia. These therapies may include:
Progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback and breathing exercises are ways to reduce anxiety at bedtime. These strategies help you control your breathing, heart rate, muscle tension, and mood. A warm bath before bedtime, a massage, or light stretching all work to relax the body and should help you to wind down at night.
In group sessions or one-on-one counseling, therapists can teach patients to replace worries about sleeplessness with positive thoughts.
Therapy teaches patients to use the bedroom for sleep and sex only. Other activities that don't foster sleep, such as watching television, eating, or reading should all be done outside of the bedroom.
In this type of behavior therapy the time you spend in bed is temporarily restricted, causing partial sleep deprivation. You are then more tired the next night. Once your sleep has improved, your time in bed is gradually increased.
Some sleep experts use exposure to light to push back your internal clock if you tend to both fall asleep and wake up too early. During times of the year when it's light outside in the evenings, going outside for 30 minutes or using a light from a medical-grade light box may help.
When lifestyle changes and behavior therapies aren't curing the symptoms of insomnia, doctors will often turn to medication. Both prescription and over-the-counter sleep aid medications are available. Doctors don't generally recommend relying on prescription sleeping pills for more than a few weeks, as they can become addictive. Some of the most prescribed brand name sleep medications include Ambien, Lunesta, Rozerem, and Sonata. If you're suffering from insomnia, talk to your doctor to come up with the best treatment plan for you.
Learn more about drugs to treat insomnia.