Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Plenty of treatment options for insomnia are available. Good sleep habits and a healthy diet can remedy many cases of insomnia. Behavior therapy or medication may be necessary in some cases.
It’s important to determine whether or not an underlying issue or medical condition is causing your insomnia. Many cases of insomnia are a result of stress, or some other emotional or physical condition that needs separate treatment. Many times, sleep patterns return to normal when these conditions are successfully treated.
Often, making lifestyle changes can cure insomnia. You might want to try some of these suggestions.
You may also want to incorporate other lifestyle changes, such as the following.
If you smoke, quit. Nicotine is a stimulant that triggers insomnia. Also, smoking can lead to:
Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Alcohol is a sedative that may induce sleep initially, but it can disrupt deeper stages of sleep that allow your body to rest fully. Long-term heavy drinking can also trigger high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
Caffeinated drinks such as coffee and soft drinks are other stimulants to avoid. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine taken six hours before bedtime can significantly disrupt your sleep. For reference, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has 95 to 200 mg of caffeine. The researchers recommend avoiding caffeine a minimum of six hours before your normal bedtime.
Drinking too much of any fluid before bedtime can disrupt sleep with repeated nighttime trips to the bathroom.
Exercising 20 to 30 minutes every day can encourage a good night’s sleep. Even if you don’t see immediate results, keep doing it. Researchers in a 2013 study tracked 11 women with insomnia and found that exercising one day didn’t necessarily mean that their participants would sleep better that night. However, regular exercise over the course of four months did improve how much they slept and their overall quality of sleep.
Regular exercise can also help prevent serious medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat, which may cause heartburn and indigestion. These foods can be hard to digest, particularly when you eat them late at night. This can make it difficult to sleep.
These treatments can teach you how to make your environment more conducive to sleep. Behavior therapies are often conducted by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other trained healthcare provider. They’ve been shown to be as effective or more effective than sleep medications. Such therapies are often the first line of treatment for people with insomnia. These therapies may include the following:
Progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, and breathing exercises are ways to reduce anxiety at bedtime. These strategies help you control your:
A warm bath before bedtime, a massage, and light stretching all work to relax the body and should help you to wind down at night.
In group sessions or one-on-one counseling, mental health therapists can help you learn to change negative patterns of thinking. This can help you learn to replace worried or fearful thinking with more pleasant, relaxing thoughts. This type of mindset is more helpful for finding healthy sleep habits.
Sleep restriction requires that the time you spend in bed is temporarily restricted, causing partial sleep deprivation. You’re then more tired the next night. Once your sleep has improved, your time in bed gradually increases.
Some sleep experts recommend light exposure for people who tend to fall asleep too early at night or wake up too early in the morning. This helps to adjust your internal clock. During times of the year when it’s light outside later in the evenings, going outside for 30 minutes or using a medical-grade light box can help adjust your sleep patterns.
Your doctor may turn to medication when lifestyle changes and behavior therapies don’t help your insomnia. Doctors don’t generally recommend relying on sleeping pills for more than a few weeks because they’re addictive. Talk to your doctor about a treatment plan if you have insomnia. The type of drug and dose will depend on your symptoms and medical history. Also, let your doctor know if you’re experiencing the symptoms of depression. This may be the root of your insomnia and will require other types of treatment.
Prescription medications for insomnia include sedatives, tranquilizers, and anti-anxiety drugs. Doctors don’t recommend taking sleeping pills for more than two to three weeks because they can become habit-forming. Dosage and duration will vary depending on your diagnosis, medical history, and current condition.
Some of the more popular prescription sleep medications include:
Studies have shown that sleep aid medications are effective in:
Prescription sleeping drugs sometimes have side effects. Side effects are often more pronounced in older adults. These can include:
In rare cases, these medications can cause these side effects:
Talk to your doctor immediately about any side effects you experience.
Many people prefer to use non-prescription sleep aid medications, such as antihistamines, to cause drowsiness. Antihistamines can also reduce the quality of sleep and cause side effects such as:
Although it’s not a drug, people also commonly use melatonin as a sleep aid. Melatonin is a dietary supplement available at most pharmacies.
Try the varied treatments available for insomnia to help restore your normal sleep. Talk to your doctor and discuss which of the lifestyle changes, behavioral therapies, or medication options are right for you.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Jun 13, 2016: Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D, MSN, RN, CRNA
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.