It is very likely that you will have heard of insomnia and you most probably have experienced this at some point in your life. Insomnia is the inability to sleep at night and can also refer to people who find it very difficult to get to sleep and may lie staring at the roof for hours on end. It is a common problem as one gets older but fortunately there are many forms of treatment that can help. Usually we do not recommend the use of sleeping pills, as they are addictive. However sometimes these are the only things that will help. This blog looks at the latest evidence and research to give you the most up to date information regarding insomnia.
You most probably want to know why it is that you find it difficult to sleep in the first place. Well sometimes insomnia can be related to stress or difficult things that are going on in your life. If you have just flown a long distance on a plane and are jet lagged then this can certainly give you insomnia for a few days. However many people have a long lasting form of insomnia whereby they have difficulty going to sleep at least three nights a week for at least a month. There are certain people who have other medical conditions that can disrupt their sleep and at the same time psychiatry conditions can have the same effect. If there is any chance that you are depressed or have another medical or psychological condition that may be affecting your sleep then you must inform your doctor of this, as sleep is vital to our ability to function on a day-by-day basis. When you reach and pass the golden age of 65 it is likely that you will have more difficulty falling asleep. The body clock seems to change as you get older and as such you tend to sleep less. The amount of sleep that every individual must have can vary between people and some people who come in complaining of lack of sleep are actually getting enough for them. The normal amount that one should sleep a night is between 6 and 8 hours per night and this tends to decrease to about 5 hours as you pass 65 years of age.
People who have problems with sleep usually complain of one of three types of sleep problem. Firstly they may say that they have difficulty falling asleep in the first place and this is the most common of sleep problems. Secondly people say that they have problems staying asleep and complain that they have to wake up several times per night and this is usually a problem, as you get older. The third complaint is that people wake up really early in the morning and then are unable to fall back asleep. However this is the least common of the three types of sleep problem.
Many treatments have been tried for insomnia and in fact it has shown that in the long run, therapies that do not involve medications tend to be the most useful. Sleeping pills can help but should only be used in the short term and it is important to note that these do not treat the cause of your sleeping problem.
When you visit your doctor and complain that you are having difficulty sleeping then they may try you on some sleeping pills. The evidence shows that these pills do help you to fall asleep quicker, they also allow you to sleep for longer periods of time and generally you do not wake up as often when you are on them. Two of the newer types of sleeping pills that can be used are called zopiclone and zolpidem. Unfortunately they can make you feel dizzy and drowsy and you may also get a blocked nose and/or headaches when you take them. These are shown to be just as effective as the other type of sleeping pills known as benzodiazepines. These benzodiazepines are the other type of sleep medication that you can take and these are an older type of medicine and include temazepam, lorazepam and lormetazepam. The downside of these medicines is that they can cause much more significant side effects including excessive daytime sleepiness and they may also affect your memory and concentration. It is important that you are not on sleeping pills for longer than 4 weeks as you may become dependent on them. The effect then when you try to stop is similar to those who try to give up smoking and some people can even have panic attacks when they do not get their fix of medication and in fact this can make sleeping even worse.
Another medicine that can be used is known as diphenhydramine that can be brought over the counter at your pharmacy. This medication is known as an antihistamine and is usually used in the treatment of allergies, but also has some positive effects on insomnia.
Melatonin is another form of medication that may help on to sleep and should be taken before bedtime. Unfortunately in the US melatonin is sold as a supplement and not as a medicine and because of this it may not be regulated in the same way and you may find that the doses differ between brands. With this in mind it is a good idea to talk to your pharmacist about good brands and seeking out which one they prefer. As melatonin is a drug it can make you feel sick, confused, dizzy and can cause headaches. Melatonin should not be taken if you have epilepsy or if you are on warfarin and it may actually pay to visit your doctor and ask them if melatonin is right for you.
There are other medical treatments that do not involve medication and one of these is known as cognitive behavioral therapy. This treatment can either be performed by a trained therapist or via the aid of a booklet. The way that this therapy works is by looking at the way that you act throughout the day that may be impacting on your ability to have a good nights sleep and therefore makes you think more carefully about your sleep habits.
As mentioned earlier some of the best treatments for insomnia are not medical and involve such things as exercising during the day, but not directly before bed. Ensuring that one does not have alcohol, smoke or drink caffeinated beverages at least a few hours before bed. Making sure that a large meal is not consumed directly before bedtime. You should go to bed when you are tired and not when you are full of beans. The bedroom should be used only for sleeping and having sex and you should keep your room cool and quiet. Try to get up at the same time every morning and try not to sleep during the day and if you do feel tired during the day then ensure that naps do not last longer than half an hour. If you have trouble getting to sleep then you may wish to go to another room and read with a dim light and go back to bed when you feel tired.
Not being able to sleep can be a very frustrating thing because you know that you will be tired the next day and there is little you can do to make yourself fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Also thinking about falling asleep when you are lying in bed is one of the best ways to avoid falling asleep and this is what we tend to do when we can’t sleep. When you have not slept well people tend to be grumpy and irritable throughout the day and can often not perform their daily tasks adequately. Hopefully the advise above will help you to avoid insomnia and go back to having a long a peaceful nights sleep, good night.