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Treatment options for insomnia include making behavior and lifestyle changes, taking medicines, and using complementary medicines.
Behavior and lifestyle changes
Getting ready for bed means more than turning down the sheets. Sleep experts know that there are many things that affect how well you sleep. Making behavior and lifestyle changes improves your overall sleep quality and the time it takes to fall asleep. These changes do this without the side effects that sleep medicines can cause. Perhaps most importantly, these improvements last over time.
To improve your sleep, here are some things you can try:
These are simple things you can do that may help you sleep better. You can change your sleep area or schedule, or you can watch what and when you eat and drink. You can be more active. It's also important to keep regular bedtimes and wake times every day of the week and to try not to nap during the day.
Some people use alcohol to help them sleep, but that's not a good idea. At first, drinking alcohol may make you sleepy and help you fall asleep. But when you drink alcohol, you are more likely to wake up later in the night and have a hard time falling back asleep. This can leave you feeling tired the next day.
Progressive muscle relaxation, for example, may help you if you lie in bed with your mind racing.
Healthy thinking is a way to help you stay well or cope with a health problem by changing how you think. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of counseling. It can help you understand why you have sleep problems and can show you how to deal with them. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps reduce sleep problems over time.
In some cases, taking sleeping pills for a short time can help you get some rest. Behavior and lifestyle changes can help you over the long term. Doctors recommend taking sleep medicines only now and then or only for a short time. They are not the first choice for treating ongoing (chronic) insomnia.
Many sleep medicines cause side effects, such as low blood pressure, anxiety, and nausea. These medicines also may become less effective when your body gets used to them. They may cause withdrawal symptoms when you stop using them.
Sleep medicines include:
Prescription sleep medicines, such as eszopiclone (Lunesta), ramelteon (Rozerem), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien). These medicines are sometimes used for short-term insomnia.
Orexin receptor antagonists, such as suvorexant (Belsomra). These medicines block chemicals in the brain that keep you awake, helping to promote sleep.
Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (for example, Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and quazepam (Doral). These medicines help you fall asleep or stay asleep.
Antidepressants that have a calming or sedative effect. They can be used to help you sleep.
Antihistamines. Typically used for allergies, these medicines can provide short-term relief of sleeplessness.
Nonprescription medicines for sleep. These medicines can help, but they also can cause side effects, such as drowsiness the next day. Over time, these sleeping pills may not work as well as they did when you first started using them.
Other treatments for insomnia may include complementary medicine. Two of the most popular dietary supplements used for insomnia are:
Melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain. You can also buy it as a supplement. Melatonin has also been used to treat jet lag and poor sleep from working the night shift. The long-term effects of taking melatonin are unknown. If you are using melatonin regularly, talk to your doctor.
Valerian, an herbal sleep remedy. Valerian appears to be safe, and it may improve sleep when taken for a week or two.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.