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Treating insomnia

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Fatigue and insomnia are some of the issues facing a society that thrives on stress and focuses on performance. These days, countless people struggle with sleep disorders. Are you one of them? If so, what follows might be of interest to you.

Are you sleeping enough?

It is said that adults generally need seven to eight hours of sleep per night in order to properly recuperate. That being said, a small proportion of the population actually only requires four or five hours of sleep to get reenergized for the day.

What causes insomnia?

When you are having health problems, it is sometimes harder to fall asleep or to ensure that you are getting regenerative sleep. Several conditions can contribute to a sleep disorder, such as:

  • acute or chronic pain;
  • restless leg syndrome;
  • sleep apnea and other respiratory diseases;
  • mental illness;
  • digestive diseases;
  • rheumatism.

In addition, several other factors can trigger a sleep disorder. For example:

  • intake of alcohol, drugs or other stimulating substances;
  • time change or variable work shifts;
  • period of high stress, such as death or divorce;
  • environment that is not conducive to sleep;
  • stimulating activities in the evening (intense exercise, intellectual work, etc.);
  • use of certain medications.

Non-medicinal treatments

The first step in resolving an insomnia problem consists in identifying its cause or contributing factors and eliminating them, if possible. For example, controlling an underlying disease can sometimes fix the problem. Also, if you believe your sleep issues are due to medication you are taking, speak to your pharmacist. He or she can suggest solutions.

Once this step is done, it is best to turn to non-medicinal measures. There are several to consider, such as:

  • Learn more about good lifestyle and sleep habits. Having healthy habits and a good sleep routine is the foundation of quality sleep. Learn more about this topic by consulting a health professional, going online or reading books on the subject. Here are some examples of tips you may come across:
    • Don’t drink coffee before bedtime.
    • Exercise regularly during the day.
    • Avoid hearty meals and snacks at night.
    • Don’t nap during the day.
  • Learn relaxation techniques. Because insomnia often goes hand in hand with stress, it might be beneficial to find out about certain relaxation techniques, such as autogenous training, meditation, biofeedback or music therapy.
  • Go for psychotherapy. Psychotherapy can contribute to your well-being in many ways. Among other things, it can reduce your level of anxiety and help you manage stress better. It may also help you deal with other health problems that sometimes contribute to insomnia, such as depression.
  • Visit a clinic specializing in sleep disorders. Health professionals who work in this type of clinic can do an in-depth evaluation of your situation to determine the origin of the problem and recommend effective solutions.

Medicinal treatments

Turning to medication should always be a last-resort solution to be considered after having tried all of the above-mentioned measures. There are several types of medications to treat insomnia:

Natural products

Some natural products are valued for their positive effects on sleep. This is the case, for example, for melatonin, valerian and passiflora. Although their properties are not officially recognized, many people successfully use them. Natural products, just like any medication, can cause side effects, so consult your pharmacist for more information.

Over-the-counter sleep aids

At the pharmacy, you can purchase, without a prescription, medication designed to alleviate occasional insomnia. This medication contains a sedative (which provokes sleep) substance called diphenhydramine. The companies that make these products recommend that they not be used over a long period of time. Ask your pharmacist for advice regarding their optimal and safe use. If you suffer from permanent insomnia, see your doctor.

Benzodiazepines

For the past several years, this class of medication has been the most prescribed by doctors to treat insomnia problems. It also helps with treating anxiety disorders. Although very effective, benzodiazepines feature several disadvantages, such as a risk of tolerance or dependency, and have side effects like drowsiness and fatigue during the day, memory problems, decreased reflexes, etc. Note that medication prescribed for insomnia must always be taken in the lowest effective dose and for as short a time as possible.

Other prescription sleeping pills

Other medications can also be prescribed. They act similarly to benzodiazepines; they are quite effective, but they too can, for the most part, cause adverse effects, and using them on a long-term basis may lead to tolerance or dependency. They must therefore be taken with caution.

Other medication classes

Finally, doctors are prescribing more and more other medication classes to cure insomnia. These can be, for example, drugs that belong to the classes of antidepressants, anxiolytics or antipsychotics. They are used to reduce anxiety or to provoke drowsiness. The interesting aspect of these medications is the fact that they often treat a concomitant problem or eliminate the risk of tolerance or dependency associated with sleeping pills.

In conclusion, if you suffer from insomnia, don’t just stand by idly; no one should be deprived of a good night’s sleep. There are several health professionals who can help and guide you, including your pharmacist. Who knows… perhaps they hold the key to dreamland!

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