How is Insomnia Treated?
If you have short-term insomnia, you may not need treatment. Often, good sleep habits and self-care can cure a mild case.
If you have trouble functioning during the day because of poor sleep, your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills for a few weeks. Commonly used sleep aids include sedatives, minor tranquilizers, and anti-anxiety drugs. Most are safe if a doctor supervises their use. Some sleep aids can become habit-forming or pose the potential for overdose if not used as directed. Some newer sleep aids can be taken for longer periods without losing effectiveness.
If you use an over-the-counter sleep aid, take it exactly as directed. An OTC product may help with an occasional sleepless night, but it is inappropriate for chronic insomnia. Chronic insomnia could be a sign of a serious, underlying disorder, so see your doctor. If you decide to try an OTC sleep aid, keep in mind that these products often contain antihistamines, which can cause nervousness, agitation, falls, confusion, urinary difficulties, and daytime sleepiness, especially in older people.
If you have chronic insomnia, getting treatment for any underlying health condition or other problem may help you to sleep better. If you still have insomnia, your doctor may suggest behavioral therapy, which is frequently used when insomnia stems from the mind or body being unable to relax. Behavioral therapy teaches a person how to alter behaviors that worsen insomnia and learn new ways to promote sleep.
Steps to Manage Your Sleepless Nights
Step 1: Make lifestyle changes to improve your sleep.
- Try not to worry about sleep when you go to bed.
- Avoid clock-watching. Turn your clock around and use only the alarm.
- Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep. Keep it dark, quiet, and not too cold or warm. Use a sleeping mask to block light or use earplugs or a fan to block noise.
- Relax before bedtime by reading, listening to relaxing music, bathing, or doing another relaxing activity.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day; a light snack before bedtime may help with sleep, though.
- If you can’t sleep and don’t feel drowsy, avoid lying in bed. Get up and read or do something that’s not stimulating until you feel sleepy.
Step 2: Keep a sleep diary.
If you’ve made lifestyle changes and still have sleep problems, write down in a journal:
- Time you went to bed
- Approximate time you fell asleep
- Time you woke up
- Number of times you woke up during the night
- Amount of time you stayed awake during the night
- Total amount of sleep you log per night
- Any grogginess upon waking in the morning or during the day
- Naps and their duration
- Any daytime incidents of dozing off and where it happened
- Any comments about particular sleep problems or quality of sleep