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People who suffer from insomnia have difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. 40% of adults report having insomnia occasionally, while 10-15% have chronic or severe insomnia. This translates to approximately 60 million Americans suffering from insomnia. Women are particularly prone to insomnia.

How Big a Problem is Insomnia? Consider these Facts:

  • Insomnia sufferers spend $14 billion on insomnia treatments each year
  • As much as $28 billion a year is lost to decreased work productivity, accidents, and illnesses related to insomnia
  • People with severe insomnia have a quality of life similar to people who have chronic conditions such as heart failure
  • Insomnia increases your risk of disorders such as major depression, anxiety disorder, and substance abuse

Causes of Insomnia

Finding the cause of insomnia is usually key to finding a cure. Typical factors include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Medications
  • Caffeine
  • Depression
  • Physical pain

Unfortunately, there may sometimes be no apparent cause.

Symptoms of Insomnia

Everyone has an occasional night when it is hard to fall asleep. However, if you have symptoms such as these night after night for a month or more, you may have insomnia:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up unrefreshed and feeling like you haven’t slept at all or that you have a hangover
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Poor motor skills
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Rapid mood shifts
  • Irritability
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Daytime sleepiness

Treating Insomnia

To treat your insomnia, your physician may prescribe one or a combination of the following treatments:

  • Behavior modification
  • Prescription medication
  • Over-the-counter sleep aids

Behavior Modification

Because insomnia can be caused by anxiety and stress, learning to manage your stress and to develop relaxation techniques can help bring an end to your insomnia. Relaxation techniques you might try include:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation. Tense and then relax the muscles in each area of your body one after the other.
  • Guided imagery. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a peaceful place. What do you see, hear, and smell?
  • Abdominal breathing. Breathe deeply and slowly down into your abdomen. Hold each breath for a second or two and then relax to let the air escape.
  • Meditation. Concentrate on an object or thought without letting your mind wander.

Other behaviors that can help reduce your insomnia include using your bedroom only for sleep and sex and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and food before bedtime.

Prescription Medication

In years past, doctors often prescribed barbiturates such as Nembutal and Seconal for insomnia. However, these medications can be addictive and have replaced by safer benzodiazepine drugs such as Halcion, Lunesta, and Ambien. Another drug, called Rozerem, is especially useful for people who have trouble falling asleep, as it targets the part of the brain responsible for keeping you awake.

Antidepressants and antipsychotics may also be prescribed to help you win the battle against insomnia.

Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids

Over-the-counter sleep aids use antihistamines to sedate the brain. While these may work initially, they lose their effectiveness over time. In addition, they can have unpleasant side effects, including:

  • Next-day grogginess
  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Delirium

Another option is to try dietary supplements such as melatonin and valerian root, which may help some people with insomnia.






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