There are a number of approaches to the treatment of insomnia. Treating insomnia can be complicated, depending on the cause, and it may require a period of cooperation with a doctor to determine the treatment method which is most appropriate for the patient. Someone who wants to treat insomnia should work with a physician who has experience in treating insomnia for the best results.
In order to treat insomnia, it is necessary to know what is causing the insomnia. It may help to perform a sleep study, in which a patient is monitored overnight in a lab facility. Sleep studies can reveal underlying medical problems which may be causing insomnia, and they can highlight variations in sleep patterns which may be partially responsible for insomnia. A detailed patient interview can also help to uncover the cause of sleeplessness, as a patient may discuss sources of stress which are preventing sleep, mental illnesses linked to insomnia, or bad habits which are contributing to insomnia.
One of the most commonly used methods to treat insomnia is improvements in sleep hygiene. Reserving the bedroom for sleeping, going to bed at the same time every evening, keeping the bedroom slightly cooler than the rest of the house, providing noise insulation in the bedroom, and avoiding heavy meals before bed are all examples of good sleep hygiene which can help people get to sleep more easily. If these behavioral changes are not effective, or not relevant to the patient's situation, other methods to treat insomnia can be attempted.
Sleep aids, whether prescription, over the counter, or natural, may be recommended in the short term to help a patient get to sleep, but they are usually not recommended in the long term. Some are habit forming, and using sleep aids also fails to address the root cause of the insomnia. Over time, the patient may grow tolerant of the drugs, and experience a recurrence of the insomnia which could tempt the patient into increasing the dosage, which can be dangerous.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in the treatment of insomnia, as have some other types of psychotherapy, along with meditation. Some researchers suggest that insomnia can be caused by a chronic state of stimulation which is a problem during waking and sleeping hours, and that meditation to force the body to slow down may be beneficial for some patients.
It can take some experimentation with different treatment methods to find a technique which suits a patient. For example, one person might be able to treat insomnia with sleep hygiene alone, while another might find that insomnia is actually caused by sleep apnea, which requires medical treatment.