Insomnia Treatments

Insomnia ("not sleeping") means difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping deeply and restfully. There are two types of insomnia, primary (insomnias not ascribed to any external cause) and secondary (insomnias resulting from an illness or substance, or defined as sleep disorders).

It is advisable to determine what's causing your particular insomnia so you can select the most efficient way to address the problem. For example, if you cannot sleep because that's a side effect of medication prescribed for you, changing your sleeping behavior will not help you sleep properly. You'll need to discuss the choice of medication with your doctor.

Insomnia is very common today. According to the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, about 30-40% of American adults report some kind of insomnia, and insomnias that cause diminished functioning affect 10% of that number. People who lead busy lives tend to treat sleep as an unwelcome interruption, but changing that behavior can often make a great difference in the quality and quantity of sleep.

Methods of Coping With Insomnia

Remove Its Environmental Cause

That sounds like a simple and effective method, but not all events that trigger insomnia can be avoided. A change in habit, including traveling, moving, or starting a new job, can all be happy choices for which you're willing to put up with temporary insomnia. Over-the-counter sleeping pills, taken for a week or two, can help you adjust to altered circumstances while not losing too much sleep.

There is a laundry list of substances that can promote insomnia, so check to see whether anything you're taking could be the culprit. To achieve the most restful sleep possible, you should avoid nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, decongestants, any appetite control medication, or stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines.

Other medications like heart and blood pressure drugs, diuretics, antidepressants, allergy medications, and corticosteroids can also make it difficult to sleep. If you must take any of the above over-the-counter, do so in moderation and try to avoid consumption during the evening hours. If medication is prescribed, ask your doctor whether any substitution is possible.

Treat the Underlying Condition Causing Insomnia

Any mental disruption like ongoing stress or anxiety, or mental disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, can prevent normal sleep. You should always seek the help of a therapist if you're experiencing both insomnia and trouble dealing with your moods, because the two problems are very often related. Frequently, resolving an emotional issue will also cure attendant insomnia.

Some medical conditions that cause pain, impaired breathing, or frequent urination cause patients to develop insomnia, and in these cases the best advice is to follow the advice of your physician, making sure he knows you're not sleeping properly.

The Cognitive Behavioral Approach

This common-sense method involves tailoring your thoughts and behaviors to give yourself the best possible chance of getting a good night's sleep. You will learn more about how sleep works and change your sleep habits to focus on easing into sleep at the end of each day. There are a number of ways to modify what you do to bring on sleep and how you think about the sleep process.

Sleeping Medications

When you have consulted a doctor about your insomnia, tried the cognitive behavioral approach, and still have trouble sleeping, then you may wish to consider taking sleeping pills, also called hypnotics. The main function of hypnotics is to let you fall asleep, although some also work to keep you asleep for a while. They are considered the safest class of the drugs that can induce sleep.

Bear in mind that all drugs have side effects. With hypnotics, you may still feel groggy when you wake up. Your memory can be affected, and you may do things under the influence you would not otherwise do, and do not remember. Some hypnotics are addictive, causing some withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking them.

For all those reasons, it is advisable to exhaust your other options before taking medication for your insomnia. Hypnotics do not cure insomnia, but merely mask its effects. It is always preferable to follow a doctor's advice when taking any medicine.

Here is a brief review of some of the drugs that may help you fall asleep.

Available Over the Counter (OTC)

Herbal Remedies

Prescription Sleep Medication

There is an ever-growing list of prescription drugs targeted at insomniacs, and here are some of the currently popular brand names: Lunesta, Ambien, Rozerem, Sonata, Restoril, Halcion, and Silenor. You must work with a doctor in order to use these, and follow his directions to the letter.