Understanding Sleep Problems -- Diagnosis and Treatment
What Are the Treatments for Sleep Disorders? continued...
Weight loss can improve -- but may not adequately treat -- sleep apnea. Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills can also help. You may want to talk to your doctor about a device called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). With CPAP, each night you wear a mask that increases the air pressure inside your throat. This prevents your airway from becoming too narrow and may allow you to sleep without interruption. You'll need a sleep evaluation at a sleep lab for an appropriate CPAP prescription and follow-up.
Except in rare cases, surgery doesn't adequately treat anything more than the mildest degrees of sleep apnea (though it may be more effective for troublesome snoring). A dental brace that holds your lower jaw forward during sleep, for some people, is an increasingly helpful option for mild to moderate sleep apnea, as well as snoring.
Pregnancy and Sleep
Pregnant women who experience insomnia during pregnancy may find relief by taking afternoon naps, drinking warm milk, or taking a warm (not hot) bath before bedtime. Exercise during the day should help, too. Expectant mothers may find it more comfortable to sleep on one side, with pillows supporting the head, abdomen, and topside knee. If you're pregnant, never take sleeping pills or herbal remedies without talking with your doctor first.
Often, naps help relieve the sleepiness of narcolepsy. Your doctor may also prescribe stimulants such as Ritalin or dextroamphetamine to make you more alert during the day. Provigil (modafinil) and Nuvigil (Armodafinil) are new wakefulness-promoting medicines that have less addiction risk or abuse potential than other traditional stimulants. Antidepressants may be used to treat cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle control) or feelings of paralysis upon waking. Xyrem is approved to treat excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden loss of muscle tone (cataplexy) caused by narcolepsy.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome is a treatable condition. Cutting your caffeine intake may help. Other self-help measures may include a warm bath or relaxation exercises before bed. Hot or cold packs on your legs may provide relief. Several effective medications are available (including Horizant, Klonopin, Mirapex, Neupro, and Requip), but they may have side effects that should be discussed with your doctor.
Nightmares and Night Terrors
If your child has a nightmare or night terror, the best medicine is comfort. If the dreams recur frequently, talk with your child's doctor about the problem.
Studies show that older adults who exercise and keep active sleep better than those who don't. Elderly people who don't sleep well at night may find afternoon naps helpful. However, excessive naps will disrupt sleep at night. Getting adequate light during the day, particularly in the morning, can help.
You'll sleep better if you have good sleep hygiene and avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and heavy meals before bed. Regular exercise can improve sleep, as long as the exercise is performed at least two hours before bedtime.