Insomnia Help: Medication Versus Natural Remedies

Insomnia is an increasingly common sleep disorder in the world today, with more and more men and women reporting occasional or regular sleep disturbance. The good news is that most sleep disorders can be treated effectively without medication, simply by establishing good sleep habits that teach your body and mind how to fall asleep and how to stay asleep for the entire night.

Most people, at some point in their lives, experience some type of acute insomnia � that is, sleeplessness that may occur infrequently, often as a result of medication, stress or lifestyle changes.

Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is defined as sleeplessness that occurs at least several nights each week for a period of several months. In some instances, an underlying health condition or illness may be the cause of chronic insomnia. A visit to your health care provider can help determine if an illness or other health condition is the root cause. But many men and women who suffer from chronic insomnia experience sleeplessness as the result of an inability to effectively cope with the stress of everyday life. For these individuals, as well as those who suffer from acute insomnia that is not related to medication or temporary illness, learning to modify existing behaviors and adopt new habits can go along way toward encouraging a healthy sleep routine.

�Reserve your bed for sleep and intimacy. Don’t use your bed as a place to do work or watch television. By using your bed for sleep, your body and mind will begin to automatically associate the bed with going to sleep.
�Decorate your bedroom for sleep and comfort. Remove electronics, like TVs and computers, and make sure the bedding, including pillows and blankets, are comfortable. Invest in a good mattress. Make sure your bedroom is also comfortably heated and cooled. If outside noises bother you, consider adding a white noise machine, or wearing small, comfortable earplugs. If light is a problem, try hanging lined shades or curtains or wearing a lightweight sleep mask.
�Avoid alcohol, as well as caffeinated beverages, before sleep. While most people recognize caffeine as a stimulant, alcohol can also interfere with sleep by causing wakefulness during the night. Nicotine is also a stimulant.
�Avoid eating heavy meals prior to bedtime. While a light snack an hour or more before bedtime probably won’t interfere with sleep, a heavy meal can cause wakefulness, and can also cause indigestion. It’s also a good idea to avoid any foods that may cause indigestion when lying down.
�Exercise regularly, and at the right time. Exercise can help reduce stress that may be interfering with your sleep. But exercising too close to bedtime can actually make it difficult to fall asleep. Experts suggest exercising no closer than three or four hours prior to bedtime.
�To bathe, or not to bathe? Some people find a warm bath before bed relaxing, while others find it keeps them awake. The best way to know if a bath can help you relax is to add it to your routine and see how it affects you.
�Establish a regular routine � and repeat it each night. The body and mind crave routine and regularity to establish inner rhythms that can aid sleep. Find what works for you � reading a book, listening to music � before bed, and then stick to it.
�If you find yourself unable to sleep, try getting up and doing a relaxing activity, like reading, until you feel sleepy.
�Learn to meditate or to practice self-hypnosis. Guided imagery � imagining a peaceful scene and picturing yourself there � can be an effective sleep technique when practiced regularly.

In some cases of acute insomnia, or while behavior modification is under way for acute or chronic insomnia sufferers, some health care providers may prescribe sleep aid medication to help individuals fall asleep or remain asleep longer. However, sleep medications present certain side effects. Some individuals may become addicted to sleep aids, while others may develop a tolerance, resulting in an unsafe increase in the amount of medication necessary to achieve sleep. Many individuals also report feelings of sleepiness during the day when taking these medications. For these reasons, most sleep specialists and other health care providers only prescribe medications when other interventions fail, or as a stopgap during behavior modification.

Insomnia is not an uncommon condition. As stresses increase in daily life, more and more men and women are experiencing the effects of insomnia. Fortunately, for most men and women changes can have a significant effect on resolving most sleeplessness. They key is to identify causes which may be interfering with your sleep, and to maintain regularity when establishing new, helpful behaviors.

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