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Sleep Aids: How To Treat Your Insomnia

by Kimberly Johnson
Why Sleep affects your Health

SleepSleep Aids: How To Treat Your Insomnia
The terms “Sleep Aids” and “Sleeping Aids” refer to the various therapies, medications and supplements that can help you enjoy a sound and peaceful sleep when stress, travel or other disruptions keep you awake. Sleeping aids and pills are nothing new as our ancestors have been using herbal potions and the opiate laudanum to induce sleep for centuries.
The early 1900s witnessed the introduction of barbiturates, and in the 1960s, benzodiazepines arrived on the scene. There are many safer classes of drugs like non benzodiazepine hypnotics that can easily help us to overcome sleeping disorders today.
Even though you might know the tips for a good night’s sleep like sticking to a regular sleep schedule, regular exercise, avoiding caffeine and daytime naps, controlling stress, and relaxation before bedtime, sleep can still elude you. Sleeping aids can help you in such circumstances. They are available in many forms that cure and treat various types of sleeping disorders.
Sleeping disorders may appear in many forms, like failing to sleep the whole night, feeling sleepy and tired during the day though you had enough sleep, having crawling sensations in your legs, and snoring. Some of the most commonly occurring sleeping disorders are:

  • Insomnia – failing to sleep
  • Sleep apnea – breathing interruptions during sleep
  • Restless legs syndrome – a tingling or prickly sensation in the legs
  • Narcolepsy – sleep attacks during the day
  • Parasomnias- nightmares, night terrors, sleep walking, sleep talking, head banging, wetting the bed and grinding your teeth

Insomnia is a common type of sleeping disorder where you have trouble falling or staying asleep, or you wake up feeling dull and tired. People with insomnia would have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Waking up repeatedly during the night, and not able to go back to sleep again
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Feeling tired upon waking
  • Sleepiness and sleep attacks during the day
  • Irritability
  • Problems with concentration or memory

There are many reasons for insomnia. Insomnia is sometimes caused by a medical problem (primary insomnia). It can also be caused by depression and certain medications. Insomnia can either be a short term problem lasting less than a month (acute) or a problem that lasts longer than a month (chronic).
The main causes of acute insomnia include:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Emotional or physical discomfort
  • Environmental aspects like noise, light, or extreme temperatures that affect sleep
  • Specific medications used for the treatment of colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure and asthma
  • Working a night shift.

The causes of chronic insomnia include:

  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Pain or discomfort at night

There are many treatments for sleep disorders. Sometimes just having regular sleep habits, lifestyle change, exercise etc. can help in overcoming insomnia and other sleeping disorders. However, it is always best to ask a doctor for a proper diagnosis to identify the cause of insomnia to ensure you are prescribed the correct treatment.
There are medical as well as self-help non-medical treatments for insomnia.
Using medication is the most popular way of treating insomnia. Reports say that almost 25% of Americans take some form of medication for the treatment of insomnia. You are advised to take insomnia medications only when:

  • The cause of insomnia has been identified
  • Sleep troubles cause problems in carrying out daily activities
  • Behavioral approaches are ineffective
  • Insomnia is acute (temporary or short-term.)
  • Insomnia occurs along with a known medical or physical condition

When you start taking medication for the treatment of insomnia, be sure the medication:

  • Starts with the lowest possible effective dose
  • Is for a short term, if used nightly
  • Is alternating or sporadic, if used long-term
  • Is accompanied with good sleep practices and/or behavioral approaches

The choice of a prescription medication for the treatment of insomnia greatly depends on the patient’s diagnosis, history of drug or alcohol abuse, age, medical conditions etc. Generally, there are three types of prescription medications for the treatment of insomnia: Hypnotics, Antidepressants and Anxiolytics.
Hypnotics are the most effective prescription sleeping aids that induce and promote sleep.
Antidepressants are the best solution for the treatment of insomnia when the cause of the sleeping disorder is related to depression. However, a patient should discuss the problem with a doctor as some antidepressants can also cause insomnia.
Anxiolytics are anti-anxiety drugs prescribed for the treatment of insomnia due to anxiety.
Self-help and non-medicinal treatments of insomnia may include:

  • Improved sleep habits and environment (sleep hygiene)
  • Stress management and relaxation techniques
  • Acupuncture and massage
  • Cognitive behavior therapy and
  • Herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, and homeopathic remedies

Some people prefer non-medicinal and self–help strategies to treat insomnia as they tend to be less addictive, and drug-free alternatives have fewer side effects. Self-help and non-medicinal treatments of insomnia may also be less expensive than prescription drugs.
Clinical studies have examined data that proves the efficacy and reliability of hypnotics like Rozerem for the treatment of insomnia. After comparing hypnotics to a placebo for the treatment of insomnia, experts have come to the conclusion that hypnotics like Rozerem:

  • shorten the time needed to fall asleep
  • increase the total sleep time
  • decrease the number of repeated awakenings
  • enhance sleep quality

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