Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Insomnia can be short term (acute), lasting for days or weeks, or long-standing (chronic), lasting for several months or more. There are various types of insomnia: Trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep through the night, waking early and not being able to get back to sleep, and waking frequently during the night.
Insomnia can have a number of causes, including stress, anxiety, depression, medications, and health conditions. All of insomnia symptoms can vary from person to person. However, common symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, restless sleep, and waking up too early.
There are a variety of insomnia treatments available. Treatment options include behavioral therapies, medications, and complementary and alternative therapies.
Behavioral therapies are the most common treatment for insomnia. Behavioral therapies involve changing the way you sleep to help you get more restful sleep. Behavioral therapies include:
- 1) Sleep Scheduling: Sleeping at regular times and for specific amounts of time each night helps maintain your natural sleep-wake rhythm. By keeping a regular sleep schedule, you can train your body to fall asleep and wake up at the desired times.
- 2) Relaxation Techniques: Relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
- 3) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps you identify and change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to your insomnia. CBT can help you learn how to relax and fall asleep without using medication.
- 4) Stimulus Control: Stimulus control involves creating a sense of sleepiness at bedtime and eliminating anything that makes you more alert (e.g., bright lights, loud music). If you cannot avoid, mask, or restrict the stimuli at bedtime, then you will need to eliminate them from your bedroom.
- 5) Sleep Restriction: The idea behind sleep restriction is that limiting the time spent in bed while awake will help to increase the amount of sleep you get each night.
- 6) Relaxation Training: This involves learning how to relax your muscles and clear your mind before bed.
- 7) Bedtime Rituals: Developing bedtime rituals, such as reading or taking a bath, can help you relax and prepare for sleep.
If behavioral therapies do not work, medications may be prescribed. There are a variety of medications available to treat if you find insomnia symptoms, including over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Some of the Most Common Medications Used to Treat Insomnia Include:
- Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are a type of medication that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. They are typically prescribed for short-term use (2-4 weeks) and should only be used on a short-term basis. Long-term use of benzodiazepines may lead to dependency.
- Antidepressants: Antidepressants such as trazodone (Desyrel) and mirtazapine (Remeron), can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and improve the quality of your sleep. However, antidepressants are typically only prescribed for short-term insomnia treatment (1 month).
- Melatonin Receptor Agonists: Melatonin receptor agonists are medications that help you fall asleep by mimicking the effects of melatonin in the body. Possible side effects of melatonin receptor agonists include headache, drowsiness, and dizziness.
- Ramelteon (Rozerem): Ramelteon is a medication that helps you fall asleep by targeting the melatonin receptors in the brain. It is not associated with the same side effects as other medications that target the melatonin receptors, such as dependency or withdrawal symptoms.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines are typically prescribed to treat allergies but they may be used off-label to help people fall asleep. Some examples of antihistamines include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), doxylamine (Unisom), and hydroxyzine (Atarax).
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
There are a number of complementary and alternative therapies that may be helpful for treating insomnia. Some of these therapies include:
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a type of therapy that involves inserting needles into the body. Some studies suggest that acupuncture may be helpful for treating insomnia.
- Yoga: Yoga is a form of exercise that involves stretching and deep breathing. Studies suggest that yoga may help improve sleep quality in people with insomnia.
- Herbal Supplements: There are a number of herbal supplements that have been traditionally used to treat insomnia. However, few studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of herbal supplements. Some examples of herbal supplements include chamomile, valerian, and passion flower (passiflora).
- Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breath while meditating or practicing yoga. Studies suggest that mindfulness meditation may be helpful for improving sleep quality and reducing insomnia symptoms.
Insomnia can be a challenging condition to treat, but there are a variety of therapies available that can help. If behavioral therapies do not work, medications may be prescribed. There are a variety of medications available to treat insomnia, including over-the-counter and prescription medications. Some of the most common medications used to treat insomnia include: benzodiazepines, antidepressants, melatonin receptor agonists, ramelteon (Rozerem), and antihistamines. Finally, there are a number of complementary therapies that may be helpful for treating insomnia. These include acupuncture, yoga, herbal supplements, and mindfulness meditation. If you are struggling with insomnia, be sure to speak to your doctor about the best treatment options for you.