When Counting Sheep Fails: The Latest Sleep Medications
Is the new generation of sleeping pills the answer for insomnia?
Combining Medicine With Good Sleep Habits
Roth suggests that it's time to start thinking about insomnia as a chronic
disorder -- which he notes that it is in at least 10% of the population -- and
treating it that way. "For people who have high cholesterol, you don't just
give them a drug to lower their cholesterol and that's the end of it," he says.
"You also work with them on other factors in their life that may be elevating
Similarly, he says, sleep medications for insomnia should not be used in
isolation. "You want to use them in conjunction with good sleep practices, good
behavioral therapies, and treating accompanying conditions," he says. That
means, among other things, practicing "good sleep hygiene":
- Use your bed only for sleeping, not for paying bills or working on your
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol for four to six hours before going to
bed, and don't exercise too late in the evening.
- Make sure your bedroom is restful and quiet. Get a sleep mask or white
noise machine if you can't block out light or noise from outside.
- Get up and go to bed at the same time every day -- yes, even on
Studies have also found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be a
very effective treatment for insomnia, making it easier to fall asleep more
quickly and stay asleep longer.
"In fact, some research shows that medications aren't as effective in the
long term as behavioral treatment of the insomnia problem," says Arand.
"Changing behavior can have a greater impact and longer duration of
effectiveness. But that doesn't mean you can't use these remedies in