Insomnia Treatments: Learn about each one
We have all had nights where we couldn’t sleep no matter how hard we tried. Some people have to go through that every night. Luckily, there is a myriad of insomnia treatments out there now. So, what is insomnia? What are the common insomnia treatments? What are the medical and natural insomnia treatments? What is the difference between insomnia treatments for chronic insomnia and short-term insomnia? What is insomnia brain training?
What is insomnia?Insomnia is the condition of having difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. People who are insomniacs often don’t feel happy with their sleep and tend to feel symptoms such as low energy, mood changes, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and an overall decreased performance at school or work. Those who are most prone to being affected by insomnia are women, the elderly, and people who suffer from psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. Over half of the world population goes through spouts of insomnia during their life. Insomnia can happen as a side effect for medication for another condition such as diabetes or menopause. It can also be caused by stress, travel, or other situations in daily life. It’s a phenomenon that happens in roughly 30% of the population. Insomnia is defined as “complaints of difficulty initiating sleep, maintaining sleep, waking too early, and nonrestorative sleep despite adequate opportunity plus a complaint of impaired daytime functioning (eg, fatigue, depressed mood, poor concentration)” by the National Institutes of Health.
What are insomnia treatments?
Medical Insomnia TreatmentsCurrently, the most common insomnia treatment are sleeping pills which can help at the moment, but carry high risks and don’t treat the problem directly. Furthermore, they can become addictive with long-term use. Anti-insomnia medications can be incredibly dangerous when taken with drugs and alcohol because they can depress the nervous system as well as cause morning drowsiness. Benzodiazepine sedatives and non-benzodiazepine sedatives are used as medications to treat insomnia. Some of the most common benzodiazepine sedatives medications today are Lorazepam (Ativan), Flurazepam, Temazepam (Restoril), Triazolam (Halicon), and Quazepam (Doral). There is also a prescription oral spray which contains Lorazepam’s most active ingredient and is known as Zolpimist. The spray can be used especially for short-term insomnia. The most common non-benzodiazepine sedatives are Eszopiclone (Lunesta), Zolpidem (Ambien, Intermezzo), and Zaleplon (Sonata). There are other types of pill insomnia treatments, too. For example, the first approved orexin receptor antagonist, known as Belsomra (Suvorexant). Orexins are chemicals that are responsible for regulating the wake-sleep cycle and are also involved in keeping one awake. The chemical Belsomra alters how orexin works in the brain. For people who have trouble staying asleep, Doxepin (Silenor) can be used. Silenor helps our sleep cycle by blocking the histamine receptors in the brain and body. Ramelteon (Rozerem) is another insomnia treatment that works slightly differently than the other sedative medications on the market. It’s less likely to be addictive or cause drowsiness in the morning. The over-the-counter insomnia treatments often contain antihistamines which are a drug component used for allergies but that also cause drowsiness.
Natural, Non-Medical Insomnia TreatmentsPart of the reason people these days have such a hard time falling asleep is due to stress throughout the day, the body being unable to release the stress and anxiety built up throughout the day to become tired, or because we are keeping our bodies awake by drinking caffeine late in the afternoon or watching things with blue light too much before bed. Insomnia Treatments: Relaxation Techniques Using relaxation techniques such as hypnosis, massage, yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises are a great alternative treatment that can help one fall asleep quickly. Relaxation techniques can promote better sleep and help reduce tension. Trying visual or guided imagery (imagining a peaceful image in mind before bedtime) can also help relaxation and our ability to fall asleep. Mindfulness has been proven that it can improve overall sleep patterns and insomnia. In one 2011 study, participants went to a weekly meditation class, a day-long retreat, and went home and practice meditation over the course of a few months. They were found to have significantly better sleep patterns after going through mindfulness meditation. Yoga has been scientifically proven to have a healthy effect on sleep patterns, too. Massage, whether it’s self-massage or professionally done, has been proven to benefit people with daytime dysfunctions and bad sleep quality. Massage can also reduce the feelings of anxiety, depression, and pain. Try breathing exercises such as this one: exhale through the mouth letting all of the air possible. Then inhale through the nose while counting to four. Hold the breath for seven counts. Exhale through the mouth for eight counts. Repeat at least three times. Insomnia Treatments: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy The goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is to make behavioral changes as well as adding in a thinking/cognitive component. It challenges unhealthy beliefs and behaviors to teach positive and healthy thinking and behaviors. In terms of sleep and insomnia, an example of CBT could be learning to keep the same bedtime nightly, eliminating afternoon naps, or waking up at the same time. There is lots of evidence that supports cognitive behavioral therapy as an insomnia treatment. Insomnia Treatments: Sleep Habits It’s important to develop healthy sleep habits. Try the following suggestions below if you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep:
- Stop using technology. The blue light emitted from TV, phones, computers, and anything electronic actually keeps us awake. When our brains see the blue light, they turn on and stay awake because the blue light is interpreted as daylight. If necessary, turn your device on dark mode and turn down the brightness on the screen.
- Dark and quiet is how the bedroom should be when ready to sleep. Using blinds and eye shades/masks can help one stay asleep since light can come through even closed eyelids.
- Avoid certain behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, caffeine, or eating heavy meals before bedtime. By avoiding these, the body can begin to turn off and get sleepy.
- Stimulus control can be used to help create a neuro-association between sleep and the bedroom by limiting the activities that are allowed to happen in the bedroom. For example, going to the bedroom only when you are sleepy and get out of bed if you have been awake for over 20 minutes. This way, the unhealthy association between being awake and the bedroom is broken.
Chronic insomnia treatments vs short-term insomnia treatmentsChronic insomnia lasts for six months or longer and doesn’t always have a specific, identifiable cause. Chronic insomnia is the most common sleeping disorder affecting about 6%-10% of the general adult population. In people with comorbid conditions, the rates for insomnia are higher, such as hypertension (44%), breathing problems (41.5%), or cardiac disease (44.1%). For chronic insomnia treatments, some cases call for a physical exam with a lifestyle change and possibly psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help identify if there is an underlying cause for insomnia (such as too much stress or PTSD). Considering that chronic insomnia doesn’t just mean not sleeping well, it requires that the problem causing the insomnia to be treated directly. Short-term insomnia, also known as acute insomnia, lasts for four weeks or less and can be linked to a specific cause such as stress or travel. Often, short-term insomnia improves once the traveling, stress, or cause for insomnia is over and the body has adjusted to the new feeling/state or being. For short-term insomnia treatments, there are many over-the-counter options as well as supplements such a melatonin and drinking herbal teas before bedtime.
Insomnia brain training: what is it?In some cases, insomnia is caused by neurotransmitters in the brain that are connected to our being awake and being asleep states of being. There are multiple chemical interactions in the brain that could cause insomnia and also explain why some people seem to be biologically prone to insomnia even when they try a multitude of remedies. Numerous rigorous studies have proven that CogniFit has found a non-pharmacological, effective solution for insomnia. The CogniFit brain stimulation program was created by a team of cognitive psychologists and neurologists whose purpose is to investigate sleep disorders and find the best way to combat them while promoting neuroplasticity. How? By activating specific brain cell networks in the brain that are related to one’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s been proven to decrease sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) as well as increase sleep efficiency (overall quality of sleep). Furthermore, the program has been proven to decrease the damage and negative effects that insomnia can have on one’s brain. The anti-insomnia/sleep disorder CogniFit training program takes only 20 minutes 2-3 times a week in order to successfully control insomnia and reduce sleeping disorders. It’s a program that has been validated by and tested by universities, hospitals, and populations all over the world. Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Anna is a freelance writer who is passionate about translation, psychology, and how the world works.