It is estimated that about half of the adult population has experienced sleeping problems sometime in their life. However, about one in ten people has chronic sleep problems or insomnia. This is a persistent problem that makes it hard for people to fall asleep, to stay asleep or oftentimes, both. Because of this, the affected individual often wakes up like he has not slept at all and may sometimes feel grouchy and unrefreshed. There are many possible reasons why people suffer from chronic lack of sleep or insomnia, and these may involve certain health problems, chronic pain conditions, psychological disturbances, as well as lifestyle habits. Although the amount of sleep that is considered sufficient varies for every individual, most people who complain of this problem are women, elderly individuals, those who belong to lower income brackets, alcoholics and people with mental health problems.
Treatments for Insomnia
The best treatment for most cases of insomnia is to treat the underlying problem which is causing this symptom. If it is due to a health problem such as obstruction in breathing while sleeping (sleep apnea), chronic pain due to arthritis, or chronic alcoholism, it is necessary to treat these problems first, to resolve its accompanying symptoms. Some medications, work shifts, lifestyle habits, as well as stress and anxiety may lead to sleep problems, and modifying these underlying causes may immediately alleviate insomnia.
The next step in chronic insomnia treatment usually involves behavior modification. This includes practicing sleep hygiene, or habits that induce sleep, such as adjusting bedroom lighting, keeping regular sleep hours and avoiding alcohol and cigarette smoking. Relaxation therapy such as meditation, listening to soothing music and muscle relaxation may also be done. Other measures include regular daytime exercises, avoiding daytime naps, reducing TV or computer use before bedtime, and going to bed only when sleepy.
Medications should never be used as the sole treatment for insomnia. Doctors may advise you to take medications once in a while, but most will recommend combining these with behavior modification to improve sleep habits.
Nonprescription or over-the-counter sleep medications are drug preparations that often contain antihistamine, a substance used to prevent or treat allergies. The major side effect of these drugs is to make one sleepy, groggy or drowsy. However, these effects can last long and may affect your performance the next day, causing daytime sleepiness, dizziness or confusion. These drugs may have worse side effects with older adults, and may cause urinary problems, such as increased frequency of urinating at night.
Some people take dietary supplements that may help improve sleep, such as melatonin, a natural hormone produced in the brain to induce sleep. Herbal supplements like valerian root may also help people relax and improve sleep when taken for a few weeks.
Prescription medications for short-term insomnia include eszopiclone (Lunesta), zolpidem (Ambien) zaleplon (Sonata), and ramelteon (Rozerem) first-choice medicines. Other medications inlude benzodiazepines, which help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Examples of these are diazepam (Valium), quazepam (Doral), and lorazepam (Ativan). Some doctors prescribe antidepressants, or drugs that have a calming effect, such as amitriptyline (Elavil) and trazodone (Desyrel), as well as antihistamines, such as promethazine (Phenergan).
Proper evaluation and treatment of your chronic sleep problem is important to your health.
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