Insomnia is a serious medical condition that besides causing daytime fatigue, can lead to other health problems such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Effective treatment of insomnia and sleep deprivation is therefore critical to ensure proper physical and mental health. Several treatment options are available that can help induce sleep, and improve the quality and duration of restorative sleep.
Causes of Insomnia
Many cases of insomnia can be caused by acute or long-term mental stress, relationship problems, or work-related anxiety. Depression is also a cause of insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Cancer, arthritis and muscle pain, and heart problems are some of the physical causes of insomnia. Sleep apnea, common if the patient is obese, will also cause sleep deprivation.
Shift work, where work hours are always changing, will cause sleep problems due to circadian rhythm disruption.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help with the psychological causes of insomnia. A recent review highlights the efficacy of CBT in treatment of primary insomnia. CBT can be more effective, and is much safer than drugs in treating insomnia. Hypnosis has also been shown to be effective in some cases of stress-related insomnia.
For insomnia that’s caused by physical causes, meditation can be an effective treatment. A recent randomized controlled study published in the journal Sleep shows that mindfulness meditation provides long-term relief of insomnia in patients with chronic insomnia.
Nutritional and Lifestyle Treatments
Avoidance of caffeine too close to bedtime is helpful, and alcohol should also be avoided completely. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, so it’s contraindicated in those with insomnia. In the short term it causes a poor level of sleep quality, and awakens the subject, and in the long term it’s linked with insomnia.
Changes in diet, and the use of clinically validated nutrients that modulate serotonin and GABA will improve sleep quality and help prevent insomnia.
Patients should eat a high carbohydrate meal before sleep to enhance production of serotonin. Supplementation with L-tryptophan (up to 1500 mg) can also help induce sleep. Subjects should avoid huge, heavy meals prior to bedtime, and avoid fried or spicy meals too. Dairy products, combined with carbohydrates, provide an excellent way to enhance sleep.
Melatonin can improve the quality of sleep, and lower the number of times one wakes up in the night. The lowest dose must be used initially to prevent daytime sleepiness (about 300 mcg). After one week of this dose, it can be slowly increased if required to achieve better sleep.
Many herbal products have been shown to have a beneficial effect against insomnia. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.), at a dose of about 600 mg, and Passion flower (Passifloraincarnata) can reduce insomnia by affecting GABA levels. Chamomile has modest effects against the disorder, but more research is required on this herb. Valerian (300 to 700 mg) should also be considered as research suggest it improves the quality and length of sleep.
If the patient is obese, it’s imperative he/she loses weight. But they should not exercise right before bedtime, as this will prevent sleep.
Insomnia can be caused by many factors, and thus the best treatment might be to combine several different compounds and strategies. Insomnia is a dangerous condition that can also lead to increased appetite and weight gain, mental disorders, and heart problems. It not only affects quality of life, but can increase mortality. Therefore, it must be treated aggressively and as soon as a patient suffers from it.
Insomnia can be prevented and treated by stress reduction via meditation, moderate exercise, psychological help with CBT, and improved diet with key nutrients.
Sources & References