Good Sleep: Can It Still Be Simple?

All's quiet, yet you still can't sleep. Do you really need a NASA-designed pillow or a computerized bed to fix your sleep problems?

From the WebMD Archives


When Snoring Is the Issue

An assortment of snoring-stiflers (oils, sprays, nasal strips) are available over the counter, says Twery. "The problem is they may decrease the snoring sound. But if the breathing problem isn't corrected, that's a potentially serious medical condition. You need to discuss it with your primary care doctor to find out what might be an appropriate treatment. You may have sleep apnea or allergies."

There are pillows with space-age foam technology that can help, Twery suggests. Actually, propping any bed pillow behind you, so you don't roll flat on your back, can help reduce snoring, he says. "When you lay on your back, your tongue relaxes, falls backward, and obstructs the airway," he explains. "Sleeping on your side may or may not take care of your snoring problem. It just depends on what causes it."

If you're seriously snoring, see a sleep specialist, doctors advise. "Sometimes people go to a primary care physician who may not pick up on sleep apnea," says Lorenzo. "These people have been snoring all their lives, waking up all their lives, what's the big deal, they think. But sleep apnea gets worse with age -- typically in overweight men.

A Nod to Sleep Drugs

Medications can provide relief from insomnia, to get your biological clock back on track, says Lorenzo. "Sleeping pills should be a short-term answer -- five to 10 days max. But there are lots of patients who take them constantly, who depend on them year-round."

"Doctor and patient need to sort out the underlying cause of any sleep problem," Twery adds. "However, for some people, these medications may be something to get them back to their daily routine."

One class of drugs, the benzodiazepines, includes Klonopin, Valium, and Restoril. A relatively new class of sleep drugs called the non-benzodiazepine hypnotics (Lunesta, Ambien, Sonata) does not have the habit-forming risks of benzodiazepines, says Lorenzo. "But if you're using those pills for a long time, it makes better sense to see if anything else can treat the insomnia... to change some bad habits," she notes.