Insomnia is an American Epidemic
Each year, about 60 million Americans are affected by insomnia. People over the age of 65, and more women than men, have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
Chronic insomnia can have a devastating effect on daily routines. Few people realize just how debilitating sleep deprivation can be. Sleep is restorative and nourishing for both body and mind. It is a very basic and sustaining component of life. Insomnia, if left untreated, can raise your risk of accidental injury and many chronic health problems.
If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, the first thing to try is to change your behavior. Good sleep practices are the foundation of proper treatment for insomnia. Employing good sleep hygiene is always recommended. Changing your sleep habits can help promote good sleep using behavioral interventions, such as:
- Maintaining a regular sleep routine
- Avoiding naps
- Not staying awake in bed for more than 5-10 minutes
- Turning off your tv, cell phone, computer or other distractions that cause extraneous noise and light
- Avoiding caffeinated drinks after 4 p.m.
- Exercising regularly
- Having a quiet, comfortably cool, dark bedroom, and a comfortable mattress
- Avoiding substances such as tobacco and alcohol, as they may cause fragmented sleep
- Initiate a “pre-bedtime routine” that includes a warm bath or shower, and some quiet time
If these behavior modifications do not help, you should probably visit your primary care doctor for some help sleeping.
Your Primary Care Doctor Might Be Able to Help You Sleep
If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. They will work with you to discover the cause of your insomnia. Once that is identified, they may recommend lifestyle changes and strategies that may help you to sleep better. If these recommendations fail, your physician may send you to a special sleep diagnosis center where you will most likely spend a night sleeping while they monitor you to determine if your sleep issues are due to physical or underlying health issues.
If all these strategies to diagnose and improve your sleep fail, then your doctor may resort to recommending medication to help you sleep.
Consult with Your Primary Care Doctor Regarding Sleep Medication
Your primary care physician knows more about your overall health, and your health history than any single specialist. Because of this, they may be able to offer the best recommendations for effective sleep medications and dosages.
If your doctor recommends you try certain over-the-counter sleep medications, discuss specific recommendations and dosages tailored to your personal health history. Also, be sure to discuss how long to use any over-the-counter sleep aid. While these can provide initial relief for people with insomnia, most doctors agree that they should not be used indefinitely. Your doctor will help you figure out how long to take a sleep aid. The goal is taking this medication for the shortest duration that will still provide you with appropriate sleep benefits. Your doctor will have you make a follow-up appointment for this reason. Make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions, and do not miss that follow-up appointment!
Some sleep aids are available only by prescription. This is because it is even more important that you work with your doctor to determine the best type, dose, and plan for taking prescribed sleep medication. Once your doctor determines the best medication and dosage for you, they will review all medication warnings and precautions with you. You will be monitored while taking this medication.
Your doctor should make it clear that taking sleep medications of any sort are helpful as an aid to getting enough sleep while you are transitioning your behavior, and developing good sleep habits. Do not think these are just magic sleep pills! Like all medication, they have possible side effects. Continue to do your sleep “homework”, and start adjusting your lifestyle and behavior to the point where you can eventually, per your doctor’s instructions, wean yourself off the medications and enjoy a good night sleep.
If you are having trouble sleeping, contact South Carolina Internal Medicine Associates and Rehabilitation at (803) 749-1111 for comprehensive, compassionate, and truly patient-centered care. You can also request an appointment online by filling out our interactive form.