About This Condition
Insomnia refers to a prolonged inability to get adequate sleep. Not getting a good night’s sleep can result from waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble getting back to sleep. It also occurs when people have a hard time falling asleep in the first place. Insomnia can be a temporary, occasional, or chronic problem.
Sleep-onset insomnia refers to the inability to fall asleep initially. Sleep-maintenance insomnia refers to the inability to stay asleep, with one or more awakenings during the night.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
A steady sleeping and eating schedule combined with caffeine avoidance and counseling sessions using behavioral therapy has reduced insomnia for some people, as has listening to relaxation tapes.1
The effect of exercise on sleep has not been well studied. However, some healthcare practitioners recommend daily exercise as a way to reduce stress, which in turn can help with insomnia.
A naturopathic therapy for insomnia is take a 15- to 20-minute hot Epsom-salts bath before bedtime. One or two cups of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) in a hot bath are thought to act as a muscle relaxant.
Smokers are more likely to have insomnia than nonsmokers.2 As with many other health conditions, it is important for people with insomnia to quit smoking.
Insomnia can be triggered by psychological stress. Dealing with stress, through counseling or other techniques, may be the key to a better night’s rest. Many trials have shown that psychological intervention can be helpful for insomnia.3 A combined program of counseling, sleep restriction methods (i.e., the only time spent in bed is when sleeping), and control of stimuli that might interfere with sleep, significantly increased sleep time in a group of people with insomnia.4
Acupuncture may be helpful for insomnia, possibly by increasing production of calming neurotransmitters such as serotonin and other substances.5 A preliminary trial found one acupuncture treatment daily for seven to ten days resulted in complete recovery of normal sleep in 59% of patients and partial recovery in 21%.6 A controlled trial treated patients with either acupuncture or fake acupuncture (insertion of needles at non-acupuncture points). The patients receiving true acupuncture had significant improvements in a laboratory measure of sleep quality compared to the placebo group.7 The treatment of insomnia with auricular (ear) acupuncture may provide similar benefits to people with insomnia, according to a preliminary trial.8 However, double-blind trials are necessary to conclusively determine the value of acupuncture in treating insomnia.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.