Here’s some excellent information on avoiding insomnia and getting a good night’s sleep using common-sense sleep hygiene. It’s from my friends at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. However, I find that many of my patients are not aware of some (or even most) of this information. So, here’s to a good night’s sleep for each of you.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a common complaint. Some symptoms of insomnia are difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and difficulty with early morning awakening.
Sometimes insomnia only lasts for a short time and can be easily managed. Persistent insomnia is more troublesome and can affect work, school, social relationships, and health.
Many conditions are associated with insomnia such as depression, anxiety, allergies, and pain. Much of the time insomnia is simply the result of poor sleep habits.
How Is Insomnia Treated?
Insomnia treatment in adults may include use of an over-the-counter medication or, in other cases, use of a prescription sedative.
Over-the-counter sleep medications (diphenhydramine [Benadryl]) may worsen insomnia in children.
It is important to determine the cause of insomnia before treatment begins. Maintaining a sleep diary for one to two weeks is a good way to start. Keeping track of sleep times, caffeine and alcohol ingestion, etc. may provide clues as to the cause of insomnia.
Behavioral changes are often all that’s needed to improve sleep. By maintaining good sleep habits (sleep hygiene) the need for medication may be avoided. In children, ensure a regular sleep schedule and calming bedtime routine.
PRINCIPLES OF SLEEP HYGIENE
Adapted from Jermain DM. Sleep disorders. PSAP. 1995:139-154.
What If Nondrug Treatment Fails?
If you or your child are still having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, you should talk to your pharmacist or other healthcare provider. The cause of your insomnia will need to be determined and a medication may be needed.
Even if medication is used for insomnia, sleep hygiene principles should still be followed and can provide added benefit.