Ask a Pharmacist

Managing Insomnia Without Medication

managing-insomnia

by Jenny Bingham, PharmD, BCACP
SinfoniaRx

What is insomnia?

The prevalence of insomnia increases with age, especially in women. Individuals can experience one of two different types: acute or chronic. Acute or transient insomnia lasts for days to weeks. Chronic insomnia lasts for more than one month. 1

A general consensus estimates that approximately one-third of adults experience insomnia. Characteristic symptoms include: difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, waking up too early, and/or poor quality of sleep. 2

Why is it important to treat insomnia?

Untreated insomnia can have negative outcomes on an individual’s overall health. It is been associated with altered physical health, emotional health, mental health, social functioning, pain control, and overall health perception. 3

What can you do to treat insomnia?

There are two approaches to treating insomnia without medications. 4

Sleep hygiene

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Do not exercise immediately before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol and stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Maintain a comfortable sleeping environment that is dark, quiet, and free of distractions.
  • Avoid consuming large amounts of food or liquids immediately before bedtime.

Stimulus control

  • Go to bed only when you are sleepy.
  • Avoid daytime naps.
  • If unable to sleep, get out of bed and go to another room— only return to your bed when you feel the need to sleep.
  • Do not eat or watch TV in bed.
  • Wake up at the same time each day.

Individuals should also ask their provider about management of other underlying causes of insomnia, like psychiatric or other medical conditions. It’s important to limit prescription sleep aids to short-term use. After initiating any treatment for insomnia, whether behavioral or prescription, it’s important to reevaluate after a few weeks.

References:

  1. Schutte-Rodin S, Broch L, Buysse D, et al. Clinical guideline for the evaluation and management of chronic insomnia in adults. J Clin Sleep Med 2008; 4:487–504.
  2. Ancoli-Israel S, Roth T. Characteristics of insomnia in the United States: results of the 1991 National Sleep Foundation Survey. I. Sleep. 1999 May 1; 22 Suppl (2):S347-53.
  3. Katz DA, McHorney CA. The relationship between insomnia and health-related quality of life in patients with chronic illness. J Fam Pract. 2002 Mar; 51(3):229-35
  4. Dopp JM, Phillips BG, Chisholm-Burns M. Sleep Disorders. Pharmacotherapy Principles & Practice and. 3e; 41: 737-747.

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