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Alternative Treatments for Insomnia

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Alternative Therapies for Insomnia continued...

Relaxation and meditation

Increased muscle tension and intrusive thoughts can interfere with sleep. Therefore, it is not surprising that techniques aimed at relaxing muscles (progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback) and quieting the mind (meditation) have been found to be effective treatments for insomnia. Most people can learn these techniques, but it usually takes several weeks before they can sufficiently master them well enough to help ease insomnia. There is a growing body of evidence that supports the value of meditation in treating insomnia. Several studies show that regular meditation practice, either alone or as a part of yoga practice, results in higher blood levels of melatonin, an important regulator of sleep.

Exercise

Regular exercise deepens sleep in young adults with or without sleep disorders. In addition, several studies show that exercise can improve sleep in older adults. Recent studies show that even the low-to-moderate tai chi and certain yoga practices enhance sleep quality in older persons and cancer patients with sleep problems, respectively. Although consistent exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, most experts advise exercising at least three to four hours before bedtime to avoid interference with sleep.

Points to Consider About Alternative Therapy

Alternative therapies are not FDA approved and not always benign. By definition, alternative therapies are not generally accepted standard of care practice in the U.S. As mentioned, some herbal therapies can interact with other medications you may be taking. Consider the following points before starting alternative therapy.

  • Always talk to your doctor before trying an alternative approach and be sure to tell all your doctors what alternative treatments you are using.
  • If you experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, diarrhea, or skin rashes, stop taking the herbal product and notify your doctor immediately.
  • Avoid preparations made with more than one herb.
  • Beware of commercial claims of what herbal products can do. Look for scientific-based sources of information.
  • Select brands carefully. Only purchase brands that list the herb's common and scientific name, the name and address of the manufacturer, a batch and lot number, expiration date, dosage guidelines, and potential side effects.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 28, 2013
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