How Will Sleep Experts Treat My Insomnia?

Your physician may ask questions about your sleep patterns such as: how long you have been experiencing symptoms and whether they occur every night; whether you snore; how well you function during the day; whether you take any medications and whether you have other health disorders.

It is helpful if you use a sleep diary to record your sleep patterns and the amount of sleep you get so that you and your doctor can pinpoint any causes of poor sleep. The National Sleep Foundation has published a sleep quiz that might assist you in determining your sleep patterns.

Sleep experts may treat chronic insomnia in the following manner:

  • Finding and treating any medical conditions or mental health problems.
  • Looking for routines or behaviors that may lead to the insomnia
  • Possibly using sleeping pills, although controversy surrounds the long-term use of sleeping pills; always talk to your doctor about the risks and side-effects
  • Try one or more methods to improve sleep, such as relaxation therapy, sleep restriction therapy, reconditioning, and meditation and relaxation therapy.

Relaxation Therapy – This type of therapy aims to reduce stress and body tension. As a result, your mind is able to stop “racing,” the muscles can relax, and restful sleep can occur. The goal of such treatments is to assist the insomnia sufferer in gaining sufficient relaxation skills in order to reduce anxiety and tension at bedtime to be able to fall asleep.

Sleep Restriction – Some individuals suffering from insomnia spend too much time in bed trying to fall asleep. They may be helped by a sleep restriction program under the guidance of their doctor. The goal is to sleep continuously and get out of bed at the desired wake time. This treatment involves, for example, going to bed later or getting up earlier and slowly increasing the amount of time in bed until the person is able to sleep normally throughout the night.

Reconditioning – This means using your bed only at bedtime when sleepy or for sex. Avoid other activities in your bed, such as reading or watching TV. The goal here is that your body over time will relate bed and bedtime with sleep.

Meditation and Relaxation Therapy – Recent research by Dr. Gregg Jacobs at Harvard Medical School on the effects of meditation-based relaxation techniques has demonstrated the link between meditation and brain wave activity.

These findings suggest that people suffering from insomnia will find it easier to get to sleep if they practice meditation at bedtime or after awakening during the night. Dr Greggs has said that “75% of long-term insomniacs who have been trained in relaxation and meditation can fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed”. The use of these techniques for insomnia is based on the fact that individuals who suffer from insomnia exhibit elevated brain arousal that is associated with excessive mental activity during the night. This is often described by insomniacs as “racing thoughts”.

Researchers have consistently documented this excessive mental arousal as measured by increased fast brain wave patterns called beta activity. Beta activity, an alertness brain wave, is elevated both at sleep – onset and during the night, particularly in dream sleep, in insomniacs.

This may explain why insomniacs overestimate how long they are awake during the night, since beta activity, may alter the usual sense of time. As a result of these findings, insomnia is now conceptualized as a disorder of excessive brain arousal and interventions are now designed to reduce this excessive arousal.

In a study by Dr. Jacobs and Dr. Friedman, after a six week practice, found meditation-based relaxation techniques produced greater reductions in brain arousal. The findings suggest that insomniacs can reduce elevated brain arousal by practicing meditation or relaxation techniques at bedtime or after awakening during the night. By quieting the “racing mind” and excessive mental activity during the night, insomniacs will find it easier to fall asleep at bedtime or during the night.

Treatment for Fibromyalgia

A person with this diagnosis requires a variety of treatments that include: aerobic exercise such as swimming and walking, heat and massage. According to the Arthritis Society, patients with fibromyalgia may benefit from a combination of exercise, physical therapy and relaxation.

Physicians may prescribe a variety of fibromyalgia medication including: antidepressants, muscle relaxants, analgesic painkillers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), sedatives, other medications that elevate mood, ease pain, relax muscles, promote sleep and fight off fatigue. An individual suffering with fibromyalgia needs a good relationship with a Rheumatologist (a doctor who has received special training in the diagnosis and treatment of problems with muscles, joints and bones) or Doctor, a good understanding of meditation and relaxation techniques and a physical therapy regimen to follow.

Treatment for Arthritis

A cornerstone of therapy of any form of arthritis is physical therapy and occupational therapy to maintain joint mobility and range of motion. The proper kind and amount of this therapy will vary depending upon the underlying cause and upon individual factors that your physician will discuss with you.

Many drugs are now used to treat the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, and others), naproxen (Naprosyn, and others) and dicolfenac (Voltaren), have immediate analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects and are relatively safe.

Aspirin in high doses is as effective as any other NSAIDs and much less expensive, but some patients cannot tolerate the gastrointestinal toxicity. Aspirin interferes with platelet function and can in rare circumstances cause serious bleeding; this effect can persist for four to seven days after the drug has been discontinued.

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and rarely, hepatitis (liver inflammation) or renal (kidney) damage can also occur with high-dosage aspirin therapy.

To summarize while the use of sleep medicines is a common treatment, it is not a cure for insomnia. Sleep medications can be dangerous when treating sleep disruption that may arise from another disorder, such as a sleep-related breathing disorder. Insomnia needs to be properly diagnosed and treatment options discussed with a healthcare professional before treatment with medications is undertaken.