According to the American Thoracic Society, about 30% of Americans complain of having insomnia. Insomnia is a condition in which someone has a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep, frequently wakes up at night, or wakes up early in the morning. It often results in feeling unrefreshed and causes difficulty functioning in the day-to-day tasks.
Who Develops Insomnia?
It is difficult to pinpoint when or why someone gets insomnia, but certain groups of people are known to be at a greater risk of developing insomnia. This includes:
- People with mood conditions (like anxiety and depression)
- Older people
- People with chronic medical conditions (like asthma and COPD)
How is Insomnia Treated?
In order to begin treating your insomnia, the underlying cause first has to be determined to make sure that it is not being caused by a medication you are taking. When you begin treating insomnia, it is important to be patient, because it can take several days before you start to see improvements.
A sleep specialist can help you make changes to your sleep schedule to establish a normal sleep pattern.
Other things to do while seeking treatment include:
- Spending less time in bed
- Avoiding wake promoting activities in bed (screen time and reading)
- Avoid viewing your alarm clock
- Don’t exercise close to bed time
- Avoid smoking cigarettes (including e-cigarettes)
- Keep a regular bed time
- Avoid napping
- Don’t eat heavy meals close to bed time
- Don’t drink a lot of fluids at night
When you have stopped a lot of these habits and still find trouble sleeping, a healthcare provider might recommend sleeping pills for a short time to help establish a good sleep routine.
Can Over-the-counter Medications Help Me Sleep?
Some over-the-counter medications can help, but there haven’t been enough studies for most healthcare providers to recommend these. If you are currently taking an OTC medication for sleep, be sure to mention this to your doctor so they can make sure it doesn’t interfere with anything they may prescribe to you.
5 Action Steps to Help Insomnia
Here are some extra steps that you can try before calling your doctor about insomnia.
- Only use your bedroom and bed for sleeping and intimacy.
- Don’t go to bed until you feel tired. Get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep.
- Be realistic about how long you will sleep (generally less than 7-8 hours).
- Avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime.
- Altogether avoid things that contain stimulants like caffeine and nicotine.