Insomnia: the impossible dream

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: October 11th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For forty million Americans, a good night’s sleep is little more than an impossible dream. But there are a number of effective therapies for insomnia, and frequently the best treatments do not come in a pill.

Psychological interventions can help end restless nights by teaching patients to change their thinking about sleep and shake their counterproductive bedtime habits.

The most common prescribed treatment for insomnia? Sleep medications, though experts say they can present their own set of problems. Over time, people can develop a tolerance to the medication and their sleep problems go back to baseline. Patients may also suffer from withdrawal symptoms when they go off the medication.

One of the first steps in sleep behavioral therapy is helping patients associate the bed with its intended purpose… sleep. By eliminating arousing activities such as reading or watching television in the bedroom, the patient can re-establish the connection between the bedroom and sleep.

Another technique requires patients to get out of bed when the tossing and turning starts. People with sleep problems may spend ten hours in bed, but only get five hours of sleep. Experts advise that if you can’t sleep, don’t lie in bed… get up and only come back to bed when you feel sleepy.

And you can rest easy knowing that not everyone needs eight hours of sleep a night… it varies from person to person. If you feel well-rested and alert during the day, you have found the right amount of sleep for you.