Insomnia treatments and behavioral therapies to improve sleep

ThinkstockPhotos-160939438Insomnia – difficulty sleeping – can negatively impact a person’s life, so it is very important to find useful treatment options.

A study published in the British Medical Journal Open contained information that everyone with sleep problems and insomnia should be aware of. The study examined the impact of prescription sleep medications, commonly taken for insomnia and sleep problems, on mortality and cancer. The results are frightening.


Occasional sleep problems can occur for many people, as many as 25 percent of Americans report having them. One of the most common sleep problems is insomnia, which is having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep during the night.

What is insomnia?

insomniaInsomnia is a condition that can result in the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Insomnia can strike anyone at any time, so even if you normally sleep well every night, it can still suddenly happen to you.

Sometimes insomnia can be temporary, for example, you’re going through a stressful time in your life. In other cases it can be chronic and night after night you are simple unable to sleep.

Causes of insomnia can range from caffeine consumption, to stress, depression, lack of exercise and social interaction and can even result from underlying medical condition. In order to combat insomnia, it’s important to uncover the root cause.

Chronic sleep problems such as insomnia affect around 10 percent of people. A lack of sleep caused by insomnia can negatively affect your ability to carry out daily activities because you are too tired and have trouble concentrating.  In general, adults require eight hours of sleep a night, until about the age of 60. The elderly tend to require less sleep, six hours of sleep may be enough for them.  Despite requiring less sleep, almost half of elderly people experience insomnia.

Types of insomnia

Sleepless nights and blood pressureThere are different types of insomnia including acute, chronic, comorbid, onset and maintenance.

Acute insomnia: Acute insomnia is typically caused by a life event and thus it is temporary. Treatment is not necessary for acute insomnia; it usually resolves itself.

Chronic insomnia: This is a long-term type of insomnia characterized by sleep issues lasting over the course of three nights a week for three months.

Comorbid insomnia: This type of insomnia exists alongside another condition. Conditions like depression, anxiety, even arthritis and back pain may contribute to comorbid insomnia.

Onset insomnia: This type of insomnia is only the difficulty of falling asleep, but once asleep the person can stay asleep.

Maintenance insomnia: A person may be able to fall asleep but are unable to stay asleep.

The dangers of sleeping pills and insomnia

Diagnosis and treatment of ALSA lack of sleep can lead to poor concentration, daytime drowsiness and not feeling well rested in the morning; it is clear why people suffering from insomnia seek help. To deal with sleep problems and insomnia many people turn to prescription sleep medications and natural sleep aids. It is estimated that six to 10 percent of U.S. adults used prescription sleep medications in 2010. Considering the number of adults taking sleeping pills, the new research is startlingly.

The study looked at over 10,000 people taking sleeping pills and found that those taking prescription sleep medications were 4.6 times more likely to die. Even if you only take a few sleeping pills, your risk of death is significantly increased. Taking only one to 18 sleeping pills a year increased the risk of death 3.6 times higher than not taking any sleeping pills.  Battling insomnia with sleeping pills was not just found to increase the likelihood of dying, high doses of sleeping pills resulted in a 35 percent increased risk of overall cancer.

In 2010 alone it is estimated that between 320,000 to 507,000 excess deaths were associated with sleeping pills. These are horrific numbers that can keep you awake at night.

Treatment options for insomnia

treatment for insomniaMany people turn to natural sleep aids as an alternative to prescription sleeping pills. The idea is that natural sleep aids can help fight insomnia without the harsh side effects of sleeping pills.  It was widely known in the past that sleeping pills can be addictive, but this new research illustrates just how dangerous sleeping pills truly are.

It is clear that alternatives to prescription sleeping pills are needed to help deal with insomnia and other sleep problems. Natural sleep aids, changes in diet and modifying behavior can help combat insomnia. Sleeping pills are not the only option, the alternative methods can provide the help you need without the deadly side effects linked to prescription drugs.

Difficulties sleeping can be caused by a large number of factors. It is best to consult with your health care practitioner to find the treatment option that is best, and safest, for you. We now know just how dangerous sleeping pills can be.

Insomnia treatment home remedies include:

  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.
  • Avoid the use of sleep aids and sleeping pills.
  • Ensure your room is designed to promote sleep by being kept cool, dark and tidy.
  • Avoid the use of technology prior to bed.
  • Manage and minimize stress.
  • Don’t exercise prior to bed.
  • Try to stick to a set bedtime.

Behavioral therapies for insomnia

Along with the above tips, behavioral therapies have also been shown to be effective in the treatment of insomnia and do not result in harsh or negative side effects. Below is a list of common behavioral therapies which you can try to better treat your insomnia.

  • Relaxation therapyGuide to a fatigue-free day
  • Stimulus control therapy – some individuals associate the bedroom with being awake, so a therapist will work to change that person’s perception and “re-teach” them that the bedroom is a place for sleeping
  • Sleep restriction therapy – limiting a person from sleeping in to “catch-up” on lost sleep so they will be more willing to go to sleep earlier
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – get to the root of underlying anxiety and stress and try to better manage them
  • Phototherapy – also known as light therapy, it’s used to reset a person’s circadian clock
  • Chronotherapy – delaying sleep by a few hours for a few nights so the body will be prompted to sleep at an earlier, more desirable time

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