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What Really Works For Insomnia

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Weve Helped Hundreds Of Our Patients At Parsley Health Answer The Question Why Cant I Sleep But The Answer Is Usually More Complex Than People Think Heres Whats Keeping You Up At Night And What You Can Do About It

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If you suffer from insomnia , reading another suggestion to turn your phone off two hours before bed and wake up at the same time every day as the solution to all of your sleep woes can be downright infuriating.

While those habits can certainly help a lot of people improve their sleep quality, if you truly suffer from insomnia, its usually not that simple. After yet another restless night, youre probably already worried about what tonight has in store for your sleep.

I think thats the worst part about insomnia: the lack of control you have over it. You feel very much at the mercy of your mind, body, and some other unseen force that seems to decide on a whim whether or not youll sleep that night.

In this article, I hope to help you gain some knowledge to feel empowered to tackle your sleep issues, both on your own and with the help of a qualified medical practitioner. Lets dive into what really causes insomnia and how you can start taking back control of your sleep.

Natural Sleep Aids: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, describes a variety of therapies that modify thought and behavior patterns. CBT has been used to effectively treat other conditions, including depression, phobias, and eating disorders.

When used to treat insomnia, CBT helps patients alter thoughts and behaviors that disrupt sleep and trigger insomnia. A CBT program typically includes six to eight half-hour sessions with a sleep therapist.

CBT programs for insomnia can include the following techniques:

  • Sleep hygiene helps patients improve their daily sleep habits by counseling them to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening, monitor nighttime eating, and engage in relaxing activities before bed, for example.
  • Stimulus control helps patients develop calming, sleep-inducing associations with their bed and bedroom. For example, patients are counseled to remove TVs and computers from the bedroom, and to use the bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Sleep restriction limits the number of hours spent in bed, which helps increase sleep efficiency.
  • Cognitive therapy helps patients understand and counter negative thoughts and misconceptions that keep them awake.
  • Relaxation techniques help people relax with guided imagery, meditation, deep breathing, and muscle relaxation.
  • Biofeedback helps patients identify and learn to control physiological factors that could impede sleep.

Prescription And Otc Sleep Aids Can Help But They Are Meant To Be Short

Before turning to medication, your doctor should rule out other possible health issues. Insomnia oftentimes is a side effect of an underlying issue, such as depression or an anxiety disorder, in which case an antidepressantcould be more beneficial than a sleep aid. If theres something else going on, that issue should be addressed versus putting a Band-Aid on the problem with sleep medication, Aouad says.

If you try sleep hygiene and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, and youre not seeing the benefit, I would say see a specialist so they can rule out any other possible medical or mental health issues that could be contributing to the insomnia and help direct you to treatment, Aouad says.

In these cases, over-the-counter or prescription sleep medication can be helpful if used for a short period of time, as you simultaneously establish a healthier sleep routine by improving your sleep hygiene and forming habits that allow you to get the sleep you need. The ideal scenario is that you once you do get into a better sleep routine, you can stop taking the medication, but continue to sleep well.

If medication is prescribed, take it for as little time as necessary since it can be habit forming, Aouad says three months at maximum. And be sure to discuss the medications purpose and side effects with your doctor.

Types of prescription sleep aids include:

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Which Strategies Really Work Best To Beat Insomnia New Research Has Some Good News And Bad News

A new study comparing a variety of strategies to beat insomnia and get more sleep has some good news and bad news.

Lets start with the bad news.

After evaluating the results of 517 study volunteers participating;in a;selection;of insomnia-busting approaches, researchers found that the;least effective strategy;is also the one that’s most accessible for most people, labeled;sleep education and hygiene.

Learning about what does and doesnt work to get more sleepeverything from the effects of exercise to the drawbacks of drinking coffee too late in the daydoesnt have much of an effect on improving sleep, according to this study. By now most of us know those things, along with the importance of keeping the bedroom dark, not drinking alcohol close to bedtime, and;listening to calming white noise.

That doesnt mean, of course, that learning those things isnt worthwhile, only that simply having the knowledge doesnt necessarily translate into behavior change. Likewise, learning about how to lose weight doesnt necessarily translate into losing weight, or learning about how to quit smoking doesnt necessarily translate into quitting smoking, etc.; So this isnt really surprising .

The good news is that two strategies do work moderately well.

While both of those strategies work, theyre most effective when used separately, according to the study. So avoid the urge to mix and match your sleep strategies if at all possible.

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If your mind tends to race as soon as your head hits the pillow, put the brakes on this sleep-stealing;habit;by distracting yourself from rehashing the days events. One tip;Breus;offers his patients: Count down from 300 in multiples of three. Because this task is mathematically complicated to do in your head, he explains, it forces your brain to focus on something else besides your worries.

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What Are The Potential Risks Of Sleep Aids For Insomnia

Potential side effects can vary based on the specific sleep aid and whether the person taking it has any other health problems or medications that they take. In general, there are potential negative effects that can occur with almost all sleep medications, although the likelihood of these effects may be higher with some sleep aids.

  • Lingering next-day effects:As many as 80% of people taking sleep aids say that the sedative effect may persist after they have woken up, creating excess drowsiness or slowed thinking when a person should be alert. This issue is most worrisome for people who drive in the morning and may be at a higher risk of auto accidents.
  • Confusion or loss of coordination: A strong sedative effect can make a person feel confused, dizzy, or unable to concentrate. As a result, they may be at risk for falls or other accidents right before bed or during the night.
  • Abnormal behavior: After taking sleep aids, some people engage in strange behavior while remaining partially asleep and unaware of their actions. This behavior can range from simple things like talking, to more complex actions like sleepwalking or trying to drive.
  • Allergic reaction: These responses are quite rare, but some people have allergic reactions to sleep aids.
  • Drug interaction: A sleep aid may interact with other medications and potentially change their potency or how they affect the body.

How Is Insomnia Managed Or Treated

Short-term insomnia often gets better on its own. For chronic insomnia, your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia: Therapy : CBT-I is a brief, structured intervention for insomnia that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep. Unlike sleeping pills, CBT-I helps you overcome the underlying causes of your sleep problems.
  • Medications: Behavior and lifestyle changes can best help you improve your sleep over the long term. In some cases, though, taking sleeping pills for a short time can help you sleep. Doctors recommend taking sleep medicines only now and then or only for a short time. They are not the first choice for treating chronic insomnia.

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If Sleep Hygiene Isnt Enough

Sleep hygiene alone is often enough to get you sleeping better. The tricky part is maintaining your good sleep habitsit can be hard to have the self-discipline to stick with good sleep hygiene.

If youve diligently applied good sleep habits and still find youre not sleeping well on a regular basis, it might be time to think about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, or CBT-I. Find part 2 of our insomnia installment here.

How Much Sleep Do We Need

Natural Insomnia Cures That Actually Work

Its no secret that good sleep provides better function at work and home, along with;even better fitness and athletic performance. The National Sleep Foundation released a poll taken in 2015 that clearly indicated quality of life is;far better for those who;had a good night of sleep of at least seven hours.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amount of sleep for varying age groups: 00160-6/fulltext” rel=”nofollow”>15)

  • Newborns: 1417 hours
  • School-aged children: 911 hours
  • Teens: 810 hours

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Work With Not Against Melatonins Sleep

Melatonin levels rise about two hours before bedtime, Buenaver says. Create optimal conditions for it to do its job by keeping the lights low before bed. Stop using your computer, smartphone or tabletthe blue and green light from these devices can neutralize melatonins effects. If you watch television, be sure youre at least six feet away from the screen. Turn off bright overhead lights too. Meanwhile you can help program your body to produce melatonin for sleep at the right time of day by getting exposure to daylight during the morning and afternoon. Take a walk outside or sit beside a sunny window.

What Are Primary Sleep Disorders

In addition to the causes and conditions listed above, there are also a number of conditions that are associated with insomnia in the absence of another underlying condition. These are called primary sleep disorders, in which the sleep disorder is the main cause of insomnia. These conditions generally cause chronic or long-term insomnia. Some of the diseases are listed below:

  • Idiopathic insomnia or childhood insomnia, which start early on in life and results in lifelong sleep problems. This may run in families.
  • Central sleep apnea. This is a complex disorder. It can be the primary cause of the insomnia itself or it may be caused by other conditions, such as brain injury, heart failure, high altitude, and low oxygen levels.
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Periodic Limb movement disorder
  • Circadian rhythm disorders which are conditions with unusual timing of sleep .
  • Sleep state misperception, in which the patient has a perception or feeling of not sleeping adequately, but there are no objective findings of any sleep disturbance.
  • Insufficient sleep syndrome, in which the person’s sleep is insufficient because of environmental situations and lifestyle choices, such as sleeping in a bright or noisy room.
  • Inadequate sleep hygiene, in which the individual has poor sleep or sleep preparation habits
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Best Natural Sleep Aid: Nature’s Lab Valerian Root

This herbal supplement is a natural sedative that dates back to ancient times and comes in many different formulations, from supplements to teas. Though studies have shown mixed results about its effectiveness, valerian root can be an effective treatment for some because of how it interacts with GABA , a neurotransmitter that encourages sleep in your brain, according to Dr. Dasgupta.

Available at , $14

How Is Insomnia Diagnosed

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There is no specific test to diagnose insomnia. Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions to learn more about your sleep problems and symptoms. The key information for the diagnosis of insomnia is reviewing your sleep history with your doctor. Your provider will also review your medical history and medications you are taking to see if they may be affecting your ability to sleep. You may also:

  • Get a blood test: Your doctor may want you do a blood test to rule out certain medical conditions such as thyroid problems or low iron levels that can negatively impact sleep.
  • Keep a sleep diary: You may be asked to write down your sleep patterns for one to two weeks This information can help your provider identify patterns or behaviors that interfere with rest.
  • Complete a sleep study:Sleep studies are not necessary for diagnosing insomnia. If your doctor has concerns that your insomnia may be caused by sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, you may be referred. You may go to a sleep disorders center or do the study at home.

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What Are The Causes Of Insomnia

  • Adjustment insomnia
  • Sleep-restriction therapy

Sleep hygiene educationAddresses behaviors that are incompatible with sleep such as caffeine or alcohol use, environmental noise, inappropriate room temperature, and watching TV in bed.

Cognitive therapy and relaxation therapy

  • Correct inaccurate beliefs about sleep
  • Reduce fear and excessive worrying;
  • Relaxation therapy: The patient is advised to recognize and control tension through a series of exercises that consist of first tensing and then systematically relaxing each muscle group.
  • Guided imagery and meditation to focus on neutral or pleasant thoughts

Stimulus-control therapyWorks by associating the bed with sleepiness instead of arousal.; Rules for this therapy include:

  • Use the bed only for sleeping and sexual activity .
  • Go to bed only when sleepy.
  • If unable to fall asleep in 15-20 minutes, get out of bed to do something relaxing until sleepy; this can be repeated as often as needed.
  • Do not spend more time in bed than needed.
  • Establish a standard wake-up time.
  • Avoid daytime napping.

Sleep-restriction therapy

  • Sleep-restriction therapy is based on the fact that excessive time in bed can lead to insomnia. Limiting the time spent in bed leads to more efficient sleep.
  • Works by limiting time in bed to the patients estimated total sleep time and increasing it by 15-30 minutes for a given week period until the optimal sleep duration is achieved.

Medication to treat insomnia

Insomnia And Mental Health Disorders

Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder frequently give rise to serious sleeping problems. It is estimated that 40% of people with insomnia have a mental health disorder.

These conditions can incite pervasive negative thoughts and mental hyperarousal that disturbs sleep. In addition, studies indicate that insomnia can exacerbate mood and anxiety disorders, making symptoms worse and even increasing the risk of suicide in people with depression.

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Turn Off Artificial Lightsincluding Screens

For those with insomnia, a calm, relaxing sleep environment is imperative for uninterrupted slumber. Perhaps one of the most effective natural sleep remedies is removing electronics that having glowing screens, such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops, according to a study published in Molecular Vision.;The blue light disrupts your circadian rhythms, making it difficult to fall asleep, they found. Even if you can fall asleep the pings from your cell phone or email can disrupt your sleep cycle. Go even further by making sure your shades are tightly drawn against any outdoor lights. For maximum comfort, the National Sleep Foundation recommends a room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.;Make sure your room is the best environment for deep sleep by stealing these things the bedrooms of all good sleepers have in common.

The Benefits Might Be Smaller And The Risks Greater Than You Expect

Insomnia Remedies That Work

Sleeplessness is complicatedbut that hasnt stopped millions of Americans from craving a simple chemical solution.

In a July 2018 Consumer Reports survey of 1,767 U.S. adults, nearly one-third of people who complained of sleep problems at least once per week said they had used an over-the-counter or prescription sleep drug in the previous year.

But many of those people dont get the restful nights sleep they seek. Only about a third of people who took sleep medicationseither OTC or prescriptionreported very good or excellent sleep on those nights.;

And they often dont wake refreshed: Nearly 6 out of 10 people taking sleep medications reported side effects such as feeling drowsy, confused, or forgetful the next day. Three percent admitted to dozing off while driving.

Among the most common reasons Americans gave for taking a sleep drug is that they thought it would work better than other approaches.

But drugs arent the cure-all many people expect.

In terms of improvement of total sleep time, the benefits of sleep medications are pretty modest, says Michael Sateia, M.D., emeritus professor of psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Plus, some of the most commonly used drugs, notably OTC sleeping pills, should never be used long-term, and have little published research backing up even their short-term use, Sateia says.

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Do Natural Sleep Aids Have Side Effects

Some natural sleep aids can have side effects. For example, certain herbs or dietary supplements may cause allergic reactions in some people. Melatonin may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and excessive sleepiness . Drug interactions can also occur, which is why it’s important to check with your doctor before taking any new supplements.

Raw Honey: A Natural Antioxidant

Saving the sweetest for last!

Pure natural raw honey follows the rest of this super food list with its antioxidant profile, however it also contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties.

Raw honey contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds, and certain types contain just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.

Raw honey can help the body kill-off unwanted bacteria and fungus as it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a strong antiseptic. Raw honey also contains phytonutrients, commonly found in plants, which provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Aside from these wonderful benefits, raw honey can also aid with digestive issues, however this typically varies person to person.

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