If you suffer from ongoing or chronic insomnia, ask your primary care physician for a referral to a sleep specialist. A sleep medicine physician has additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. He or she can help determine if there is an underlying medical cause of your insomnia. There are a variety of effective treatments for both short and long-term insomnia.
Lifestyle changes often can help relieve short term insomnia. See our guide to good sleep habits.
A type of counseling called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help target the thoughts and actions that may be disrupting your sleep. You will be encouraged to develop good sleep habits and to use techniques to relieve sleep anxiety. Therapy usually takes two to three months. During therapy, you may:
- undergo relaxation training and biofeedback to reduce anxiety.
- work to replace sleep anxiety with more positive thinking and learn what to do if you can't sleep.
- talk with a therapist to help you understand why your mind races when you try to sleep and learning techniques to help you settle down.
- work with your therapist to develop a sleep schedule that ultimately results in a full night of sleep.
CBT works as well as prescription medicine for many people who have chronic insomnia and it may provide better long-term relief than medication alone.
Many prescription medicines are used to treat insomnia but they are not for everyone. Some medications have side effects including sleep walking, sleep eating or making you feel groggy the next morning. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and side effects of insomnia medicines. In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy may be more effective than medication. If depression is causing the insomnia, an antidepressant drug may be combined with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Some over-the-counter (OTC) products claim to treat insomnia and include melatonin, L-tryptophan supplements, and valerian teas or extracts. Some products that contain antihistamines are marketed as sleep aids and while they make you sleepy, they pose risks. Talk to your doctor before regularly taking sleep aids. Over-the-counter (OTC) products may not offer the best treatment for your insomnia. Talk to your doctor about your insomnia. Or, ask for a referral to a sleep specialist, if you have ongoing insomnia.