Introduction to insomnia treatment guidelines

Treatment to cure insomnia in both men and women should ideally

  • improve the quantity and quality of sleep
  • improve daytime performance, and
  • should have minimum drug side effects.

If insomnia disturbs your daytime function and is of long-standing duration, its treatment is essential. This is because insomnia, if chronic, has serious side effects and can cause health complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. For good overall health, it is necessary that you get the required hours of sleep every day.

Transient insomnia or acute insomnia usually corrects itself but it is good to incorporate certain good sleeping habits (called proper sleep hygiene) that will help you sleep and avoid sleeplessness.

Improving sleep hygiene first is important before considering any medication for insomnia. This is an important insomnia remedy that you can try at home and is usually the first line of treatment advocated.

Medical treatment reduces the symptoms of acute insomnia and its role in chronic insomnia still remains unclear.

Finding the cause of insomnia first and treating it, should be the focus of treatment. Just treating the insomnia symptoms without identifying their cause will not get the desired result.

Treatment to cure insomnia requires a non-medical approach and a medical approach.

  • Acute insomnia can be cured by adopting a nonmedical approach, which involves following sleep hygiene tips, eating foods to promote sleep, and optimizing your bedroom for better sleep.
  • For a successful cure of chronic insomnia, usually, a combination of both, nonmedical and medical approaches may have to be used.

Non-medical treatment of insomnia is considered successful when it decreases sleep onset latency or increases sleep hours by about 30 minutes.

Insomnia treatment guidelines

There are various guidelines to cure insomnia quickly, which you should adopt to help you in the fight against sleeplessness.

Most transient or acute insomnia cases can be cured by yourself if you take the right steps. Medication may be required in extreme and chronic cases of insomnia only.

Insomnia can be successfully treated and involves the following treatment options and/or their combination.

Sleep hygiene tips

  • Avoid caffeine, smoking tobacco, and such stimulants at least about 8 hours before bedtime. Tobacco contains nicotine and tea/coffee contains caffeine, both of which last in the blood for 8 hours and are stimulants that enhance alertness.
  • Certain OTC drugs such as nasal decongestants, painkillers, appetite suppressants, and diet pills can deprive you of sleep.
    Avoid drinking alcohol for about 6 hours before going to bed.
  • Do not have heavy, spicy, oily, and sugary meals for dinner.
  • Eat an hour or two before going to bed as it takes an hour for the serotonin levels to rise after you have eaten.
  • Avoid sleeping in the afternoon.
  • Do not exercise at night before going to bed. Exercise only in the morning or afternoon.
  • If you are obese or overweight, lose weight. Obesity disturbs your sleep process.
  • Do not watch television or work at the computer before bedtime.
  • Do some light reading and listen to some soothing music during bedtime.
  • Avoid participating in heavy discussions or arguments before bedtime to prevent stress.
  • Lie in the bathtub filled with lukewarm water for about 60 to 90 minutes before going to bed. This will soothen your nerves and will help you fall asleep easily.
  • Having a light massage before bedtime too will help in the same manner.
  • Do not go to bed on an empty stomach. Have a light dinner or a bedtime snack.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing while going to bed.
  • When you get up in the morning, expose your face to the sun for about ten minutes. This will set and regulate your biological clock.

Optimize your bedroom for a better sleep-friendly environment

The following suggestions will help to make your bedroom more conducive to good sleep.

  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex
  • Do not keep a TV or computer in your bedroom.
  • Keep your bedroom clean.
  • Keep it dark.
  • In the bedroom, keep the clock out of your view.
  • Silence in the bedroom is essential to induce sleep.
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature in your bedroom
  • Avoid a noisy partner who snores.
  • Keep the bedroom pollution free.
  • Ensure that your bed mattress is comfortable.

Read a detailed post on optimizing your bedroom for good sleep.

Certain foods help you sleep better

Having certain foods for dinner or as a bedtime snack can help give you a good sleep. Such foods calm your mind and induce sleep. They are called sleepers.

These foods have a positive effect on your sleep cycle because they contain compounds that make you fall asleep and stay asleep. These are foods that contain the following ingredients:

Examples of bedtime snacks for a good night’s sleep

  • A bowl of whole-grain low-fat cereal with milk
  • Granola with yogurt
  • Half a turkey
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Apple pie and ice cream
  • One banana with or followed by a glass of milk.

READ a detailed post on foods that will help you sleep better.

Practice stress management and relaxation techniques to sleep well

Stress, tension, anxiety, and worrying are the most common cause of sleeplessness. Techniques to manage stress and relax will effectively help you sleep well.

  • Practice deep breathing exercises
  • Do progressive muscle relaxation
  • Learn to relax your mind
  • Practice meditation
  • Regularly do yoga exercises

READ a detailed post on stress management and relaxation techniques to sleep well.

Cognitive behavioral therapy to treat insomnia

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a counseling treatment for mental and sleep disorders. It has a psychotherapeutic approach to cure patients with insomnia. It is effectively being used to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, and more.

In this therapy, you are usually evaluated initially, and then subjected to weekly sessions, which help to identify unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts.

It makes you control or get rid of negative thoughts and actions that don’t allow you to sleep.

It is usually recommended as the first line of treatment for people suffering from chronic insomnia because it is equally if not more effective than sleep medications.

A recent study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews published a study which found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was very effective in treating chronic insomnia. CBT improved the quality of sleep for those who experienced difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

OTC sleep aids

  • Antihistamines are medicines available over the counter without a prescription. They are usually taken to treat allergies. Drowsiness is one of their side effects.
  • Melatonin is a natural sleep aid that can help some people fall asleep quickly. If you take a melatonin tablet (1 – 2 mg), you can literally fall asleep in under 12 minutes.
  • Valerian is an herbal sleeping pill and a natural sleep aid.

Prescription sleep medications for insomnia treatment

Prescription sleeping pills can help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Doctors usually don’t advise prescription sleeping pills for more than a few weeks, but certain medications are approved for long-term use.

  • Benzodiazepines are the oldest and most commonly prescribed sleeping pills.
  • Non-benzodiazepine hypnotic sedative drugs are a newer type of hypnotics, which are prescribed for mild to moderate insomnia.
  • Ramelton (Rozerem) is a melatonin receptor agonist hypnotic sleeping pill. It is the latest sleep medication to induce sleep and its action is similar to that of melatonin.
  • Doctors may also prescribe antidepressant sleeping aids in cases where insomnia and psychiatric problems such as depression co-exist.

Chronic insomnia can be caused by an underlying medical condition such as acid reflux, pain, stress, travel, poor sleep habits, etc. Addressing or treating these causes is an important factor in the cure of chronic insomnia. The long-term prognosis to cure insomnia can be excellent.