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How to Treat Insomnia

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Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough for an individual to feel refreshed the next morning, even if one has had enough opportunity to sleep. Sleep is the natural state of unconsciousness that enables one's body to rest. During such state, the body goes through various sleep stages in a cycle like drowsiness, light sleep, deep sleep and dreaming.  Insomnia or in other word sleeplessness, is a sleep disorder which exhibits an inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired.

Definition of normal sleep remains difficult since people differ on the basis of age, diet, environments and lifestyles “ factors that play a role in determining the amount of sleep one need. Notably, insomnia is not the only sleep disorder although it is the most common sleep complaints; hence it at times becomes a symptom of another problem which differs from one person to another. Insomnia can be classified as transient, acute or chronic.

Treatment of insomnia requires its cause for instance, if it is caused by an underlying medical condition or not. Insomnia can be treated by the following means:


Ensuring good sleep hygiene

A general practitioner may assist you in knowing what to do in order to get sleep “ also known as good sleep hygiene. Tips for good sleep hygiene include establishing set times for going to bed and waking up, making sure you relax before going to bed, ensuring a comfortable sleeping environment, avoiding a daytime nap, avoiding late night caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, avoiding exercise four hours to bedtime, avoiding eating a heavy meal late in the night, avoiding glancing at the clock all through the night and using the bedroom only when you want to sleep and sex.

If your insomnia lasts more than four weeks, your general practitioner may either recommend cognitive and behavioral treatments or short course of sleeping tablets for immediate relief.

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Cognitive and behavioral treatments

This is aimed at changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to insomnia. This includes stimulus control therapy which helps remove factors that condition one's mind to resist sleep, sleep restriction therapy “ increasing the time one spends in bed by improving sleep, relaxation training to help you calm your mind and body through muscle relaxation, imagery and meditation, paradoxical intention which refers to letting go of any worry that keeps you awake and biofeedback “ a method that allows the observation of biological signs like muscle tension and heart rate and shows you how to adjust them. CBT-I is at times performed by a specially trained general practitioner or a clinical psychologist.



Sleeping tablets

Sleeping tablets are drugs that promote sleep. They are usually used when you have a severe insomnia, to relieve short term insomnia and in case the above mentioned behavioral treatments prove ineffective. Doctors are mostly reluctant to administer sleeping tablets as they don't treat the cause of insomnia and have side effects such as a feeling of hungover and daytime drowsiness. Examples of sleeping tablets are discussed below.

Benzodiazepines are tranquillizers that can lessen anxiety and encourage coolness, relaxation and sleep. This medicine should only be given to a person with severe insomnia or if it causes acute suffering as it makes that person sleepy and can also lead to dependency.

Z medicines are current kinds of medicines that work in a comparable way to benzodiazepines. Z medicines include zaleplon, zolpidem and zopiclone.

Zaleplon should be used in people with insomnia who have problem falling asleep and in lowest possible dose as it has side effects such as memory problems, painful periods in women, sleepiness, apathy, balance and coordination problems, concentration problems, changed sense of smell, dizziness and hallucinations.

Zolpidem is for unbearable insomnia causing severe stress. Its side effects are diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, tiredness and sleep difficulty like sleep walking and stomach pains.

Zopiclone is for short-term treatment including waking up during the night, difficulty falling asleep causing severe distress. It should be used in its lowest possible dose as side effects include dry mouth, metallic taste in the mouth, sleepiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and headaches.

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