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Insomnia Treatments: Diagnosis and Prevention

Diagnosing Insomnia


During a diagnosis for insomnia, your doctor will need to know about your sleep habits and how well you stick to a set schedule. They may ask you for more information by having you keep a sleep diary for one or two weeks.

Your doctor will ask about any medications- even herbal products and non-prescription meds- as well as if you use nicotine, how much coffee/alcohol you drink, and if you have any stressors in your life.

Your doctor will most likely ask you questions about your medical history and current condition in order to get a better understanding of what could be causing your insomnia. In some cases, blood tests might also be ordered to check for any underlying medical conditions.

If you suffer from insomnia, your doctor may refer you to a sleep disorder clinic where specialized diagnostic tests can be performed, such as overnight polysomnography. This test involves staying at the clinic overnight while electrodes measure the different stages of your sleep, from light (stage I) to deep sleep (stage IV), as well as REM (“dream”) sleep. The polysomnograph can also detect if you have sleep apnea.

Treatments for Insomnia

The treatment for insomnia depends on the underlying cause. For most people, lifestyle changes such as establishing a regular bedtime routine and avoiding caffeine before bed can help improve their sleep quality. Other treatments may include relaxation techniques such as meditation, hypnosis, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help with sleeping difficulties. It is important to talk to your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping so that an appropriate treatment plan can be put in place.  With proper treatment and good sleep habits, it is possible to get a good night’s rest and wake feeling refreshed and ready to start the day.

There are many things you can do to increase your likelihood of a good night’s sleep, which we collectively refer to as sleep hygiene. This includes changing some behaviors and habits that might be harming your sleep. If you’re currently working on a treatment plan with a doctor, they might suggest any of the following changes in behavior or sleep hygiene practices:

  • If you find that you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of lying down,get up and do something calming. Once you start feeling sleepy again, try going back to bed.
  • Keep phones away and out of sight during bedtime.
  • Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine
  • If you’re struggling with falling asleep, don’t fret about the time. Set an alarm and turn your clock away from you so you can’t see it.
  • Transform your anxious thoughts about sleep into more positive ones.
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule will improve your health and productivity.
  • If you’re suffering from back pain, try lying on your back with a pillow under your knees.
  • Exercise during the day
  • Try to cut down on smoking and alcohol, especially in the evening
  • Drinking of  warm milk or having a warm bath before bed.

Prevention of Insomnia

Adopting good sleep habits can help you avoid insomnia and get better quality sleep. Putting the following into practice will help prevent insomnia.

  • Keeping your bedtime and wake time the same every day, including weekends, will help you feel rested.
  • People who stay active throughout the day tend to sleep more soundly at night..
  • See if the medications you’re taking could be keeping you up at night.
  • Naps may not be beneficial.
  • Abstain from or cut down on caffeine and alcohol, and stay away from nicotine.
  • Eat your dinner a few hours before you go to bed, and avoid drinking any liquids (even water) close to when you’ll be asleep so that you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night for a bathroom break.
  • Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep and only use it for intimacy or sleep.
  • You can relax before bed by taking a warm bath, reading, or listening to soft music.

How To Deal With Insomnia

There are several different strategies that people use to deal with insomnia. Here are the most common:

  • Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule. One way to help combat insomnia is by establishing and sticking to a regular sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends or holidays. Having consistency in your sleep patterns can help regulate your body’s internal clock and create healthy sleep habits.
  • Avoid Naps During the Day. Although naps can be beneficial for some people, they should be avoided if you’re suffering from insomnia. Napping during the day can affect your ability to fall asleep at night, so it’s best not to do it. If you need to take a nap, keep it short and only nap in the afternoon or early evening. 
  • Avoid Caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate and certain medications. It can stay in your system for up to 8 hours or more, negatively affecting your sleep cycle and making it harder for you to fall asleep at night. To help minimize insomnia symptoms, avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime.  
  • Exercise Regularly. Exercise can help improve your overall sleep quality by reducing stress levels and providing an outlet for physical exertion throughout the day. Aim to get 30 minutes of exercise each day—such as running, cycling or yoga—to help maintain a regular sleep pattern. 
  • Get Comfortable. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet when it comes time for you to sleep. Investing in blackout curtains or an eye mask may be necessary if outside light is keeping you awake at night. Additionally, using comfortable sheets and blankets that are breathable could make all the difference in having a restful night of sleep. Lastly, consider using a white noise machine or fan to create a steady sound while you sleep. 
  • Consult With Your Doctor. In some cases, insomnia can be caused by underlying medical issues such as depression or anxiety disorders; if this is the case, it’s important to seek treatment from a doctor. Medications may also be recommended for severe cases of insomnia when lifestyle modifications alone are not enough relief. When consulting with your doctor, be sure to provide an accurate account of your sleeping patterns and difficulty. This will help them diagnose any potential causes and create an effective treatment plan.