Several treatment options may help insomnia, from natural remedies and lifestyle strategies to prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. It affects a person’s ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get good quality sleep. It may be acute, only occurring a few nights, or chronic, occurring three or more times a week for 3 or more months.

Insomnia can disrupt a person’s life. Lack of sleep can lead to complications such as:

  • reduced reaction time while driving or operating machinery
  • lower performance at school or work
  • risk of developing or worsening of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions
  • increased risk of health conditions, such as heart disease

Several treatment approaches may help a person with insomnia fall asleep, stay asleep, and get good quality sleep.

Treatments can help a person fall asleep and stay asleep. These can include medications, lifestyle strategies, or natural remedies.

This article reviews the various treatment options available to help a person improve their insomnia symptoms.

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Lifestyle strategies may help a person with insomnia. Some strategies a person may want to consider include:

  • avoiding naps
  • limiting alcohol and nicotine use
  • avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening
  • setting a sleep schedule that involves going to bed and waking around the same time every day, even on days off from work
  • avoiding drinking a lot of liquids before bed
  • avoiding certain medications that may disrupt sleep, such as some cold or allergy medications
  • not eating heavy meals close to bedtime

A person may also find that making their bedroom sleep-friendly can help. This can include:

  • making the room cool
  • eliminating sources of light
  • avoid having electronics, including phones and tablets, in the bedroom
  • making the bed more comfortable

A person may also find that getting regular exercise and eating a nutritious, balanced diet may help. However, a person should avoid physical activity about 5 to 6 hours before bedtime.

Stress management may help with getting better sleep. While everyone can experience a sleepless night due to stress from time to time, long-term periods of being overstressed can lead to chronic anxiety.

In either case, learning new ways to manage stress may help. Some possible stress management techniques that may help a person relax before bed include:

  • reading
  • taking a hot bath
  • listening to soothing music
  • meditation
  • acupuncture
  • massage therapy
  • yoga

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy focused on helping a person get better quality sleep. It is often the first treatment a doctor may recommend and lasts between 6 and 8 weeks.

A person may take advantage of the program in various ways, including:

  • in person
  • over the phone
  • online

Several healthcare professionals may be certified to provide the therapy, including nurses, doctors, and therapists.

CBT-I involves several components, including:

  • Cognitive therapy: helps with reducing anxiety or nervousness related to not sleeping
  • Relaxation or meditation therapy: helps with learning to relax and falling asleep faster
  • Sleep education: helps improve sleep habits
  • Sleep restriction therapy: provides a specific amount of time to stay in bed even if sleep does not occur
  • Stimulus control therapy: helps create a regular sleep-wake cycle to help a person link being in bed with being asleep; can involve going to bed only when sleepy, getting out of bed when sleep does not occur, and using the bed only for sleep and sexual activities

Before starting a new medication, a person should talk with their doctor.

Often, over-the-counter (OTC) medications for insomnia use antihistamines as the active ingredient as off-label use.

However, not everyone should take antihistamines, such as:

  • pregnant people
  • people with kidney issues
  • people with high blood pressure
  • people experiencing liver issues
  • people with cardiovascular disease

A person may find that certain supplements may help with insomnia.

Melatonin is a common supplement that people use to help treat insomnia, though experts have not fully proved whether it has a positive effect on insomnia.

Melatonin can have potential side effects, such as:

A person can discuss taking melatonin or any other supplement with a doctor to make sure it is safe for them to take.

Several prescription medications may help with insomnia. A doctor may recommend short- or long-term use of certain medications. They may also recommend using medications off-label to treat insomnia.

Some possible medications used to treat insomnia can include:

  • melatonin receptor agonists
  • benzodiazepine receptors agonists
  • benzodiazepines
  • orexin receptor antagonists

Each medication can cause side effects and may not be appropriate for everyone. A person can work with a doctor to make sure they know all the medications and conditions they have before starting a new medication for insomnia.

A person can contact a doctor if their lack of sleep is causing issues with their daily activities.

For acute insomnia, a person typically has trouble sleeping at least 3 nights a week.

For chronic insomnia, a person typically has trouble sleeping 3 nights a week for at least 3 months.

In addition, other conditions, including other types of sleep disorders, cannot be the underlying cause of loss of sleep for a doctor to make an insomnia diagnosis.

Sleep diaries can help with diagnosis. A person can consider recording the following information for about 1–2 weeks:

  • when they go to sleep and wake up
  • whether and when they take naps each day
  • when they drink caffeine or alcohol
  • how sleepy they feel throughout the day
  • when they exercise

A doctor may be able to use the recorded information to determine what activities may be affecting a person’s sleep.

With some lifestyle changes and strategies, a person may find that their insomnia improves. If symptoms do not improve following lifestyle changes, a person can talk with a doctor. A doctor may recommend additional therapies.

Left untreated, insomnia can lead to several potential health complications, including:

  • obesity and other metabolic conditions
  • heart issues
  • issues with breathing
  • pregnancy complications
  • issues with the immune system
  • exacerbated chronic pain

Insomnia occurs when a person has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. It can cause several symptoms and affect quality of life.

A person with insomnia may find that one or more potential treatments may help. These can include lifestyle strategies, therapy, and medication or supplement usage.

Left untreated, insomnia can lead to several potential health issues, including obesity, heart issues, and others.