Treatment of Insomnia

Medically reviewed by Ioannis Koutsourelakis, MD, MS, PhD
2020-05-27

While lying awake and staring at the ceiling...insomnia can feel very lonely.

In fact, it's a very common condition. Studies in several countries have shown that approximately 30% of adults experience one or more of the symptoms of insomnia. 

And, of course, it causes problems at bedtime and during the night. If that isn’t enough, it often interferes with daily activities and can make life quite difficult. 

For instance, people with insomnia are 2.5 to 4.5 times more likely to have an accident!

Additionally, their work productivity is compromised due to work-related problems (ie, higher rates of absenteeism, decreased concentration, and difficulty performing duties).

There are many different solutions for treating insomnia. Goodpath’s integrative and personalized approach to treat insomnia uses the treatments below and more. 

To see which of these treatments is right for you, take the sleep assessment

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is trouble sleeping. It may be: difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, waking too early and not going back to sleep, and/or trouble waking up in the morning.  It could also be a combination of these conditions. 

Regardless, it means that a person isn’t getting quality or good sleep and they don’t feel well-rested.

Acute vs. Chronic Insomnia

Treatment varies based on the length of time a person has had insomnia. Insomnia may be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). 

  • Acute insomnia means the trouble sleeping has occurred at least 3 nights per week and has been present for less than 3 months. 

  • Chronic insomnia also means it has occurred at least 3 nights a week, but the difference is it has been present for 3 months or more.

Treatment for Acute and Chronic Insomnia

Treatment for acute insomnia may be simpler than chronic insomnia. As an example, an herbal remedy and breathing exercises might be all that is needed to treat it in the short-term.

For chronic insomnia, the treatment is often more complex. An example of treatment might be an herbal remedy, over-the-counter medicine, use of a sleep diary, and therapy. 

A special type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is often recommended for chronic insomnia.

How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?

Some people go to their doctors for help with insomnia. If you do, your doctor will ask you questions about sleep, daily activities, and lifestyle. They will review your medical history, which includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take. 

They will also check your vital signs and complete a physical exam. In most cases diagnostic tests and referrals aren’t needed.

At Goodpath, we offer an insomnia assessment that allows us to customize a treatment approach that is right for you.

Don’t worry, if we think you should see your doctor, we’ll tell you that too. 

Over-The-Counter Medicines for the Treatment of Insomnia

The following over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are taken at bedtime to provide quick relief for insomnia. 

Diphenhydramine and Doxylamine Succinate

A person may take diphenhydramine (common brand name: BenadrylⓇ) or doxylamine succinate (common brand name: UnisomⓇ)  at bedtime to help with sleep.  

Diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate are both antihistamines. They are available as generic or store brand products, which usually cost less. They may be used for allergy symptoms like sneezing or itching. But, both medicines have the side effect of drowsiness. That is how they help with sleep. 

Because they cause sleepiness, both medicines must be used carefully. They should not be taken before driving, operating machines, or when taking part in other activities requiring alertness. Neither medicine should be taken by people over 65 years of age, unless recommended by their doctors. 

Acetaminophen with Diphenhydramine & Ibuprofen with Diphenhydramine

Pain often makes relaxation and falling asleep difficult. Medicines that combine diphenhydramine and pain relievers may be used at bedtime to help with sleep and relieve pain. 

Acetaminophen with diphenhydramine (common name: Tylenol PMⓇ) and ibuprofen with diphenhydramine (common name: Advil PMⓇ or Motrin PMⓇ) are two different OTC combination medicines that may be taken to help with sleep when pain is also present. Both are available as generic and store brand products, which are usually less expensive.

Again, both medicines should be used with caution in those more than 65 years of age. Those with liver problems should not take acetaminophen without first talking with their doctors. And, those with bleeding problems should talk with their doctors before taking products with ibuprofen.

Sleep Support Products Used to Treat Insomnia

Anti-Snoring Nasal Strips

Nasal congestion--a stuffy nose--can interfere with falling and staying asleep. Nasal strips may be used when nasal congestion from colds or allergies interferes with sleep. They are easily applied to the bridge of the nose and the only side effect is possible skin irritation.

Blue Light Blockers

Blue light blockers are special glasses or goggles that block blue light, a type of light that can cause trouble sleeping. Blue light comes from many sources--including computers, phones, and televisions--and it interferes with the production of melatonin. 

Melatonin is produced by the body and helps with sleep. Wearing blue light-blocking glasses helps to maintain melatonin levels. 

Sleeping Masks

Sleeping masks may be part of providing a calm, soothing sleep environment. They can help block out light and are often used with ear plugs to block out light and sound. Studies show they may increase total sleep time.

Body and Mind Solutions Used to Treat Insomnia

Mind and body activities can help with sleep in various ways. They may support relaxation and falling asleep. They can help with falling back to sleep when waking during the night. And, they may be effective in dealing with the daytime effects of trouble sleeping. 

Goodpath offers a 4-week Body and Mind Program that includes several different techniques.

Breathing Exercises for Falling Asleep

Slow, deep breathing can help with falling asleep and going back to sleep. Breathing exercises are especially helpful for those with overactive minds and high stress levels. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) teaches people how to relax their entire bodies. The first step of progressive relaxation is getting into a comfortable position. A person then follows steps to tense and relax muscle groups one at a time. Relaxation through PMR helps to lessen anxiety, stress, and pain.

Online Yoga

The movements and postures of yoga help with strength, flexibility, and balance. The meditation and breathing help to calm the mind. Yoga can help to increase relaxation and decrease stress and thus help with sleep.

Guided Meditation for Falling Asleep or Getting Back to Sleep

Guided meditation based on yoga nidra (yoga sleep) is a technique used to achieve deep relaxation. With yoga nidra, a person reaches a state similar to deep, non-REM sleep while awake. 

Guided Meditation with Mudras to Help with Sleep

Mudras are gestures and movements that may involve the eyes and body, but often involve the hands and fingers. The mudras are used with breathing techniques and meditation in yoga mudra.

Sleep Diaries

To create a sleep diary, a person writes about sleep and daytime activities over a 2-week period of time. Patterns of problems, as well as solutions, are often made clear. 

Journaling    

Writing exercises that go along with sleep diary entries. The act of journaling can help lessen stress and anxiety. 

Mind Focus Exercise for Waking Up

The mind focus exercise is used upon waking up. It works well for those who wake feeling groggy and sleepy.    

Tracking & Coaching to Support Insomnia Treatment

Goodpath wants to help people sleep better over the long-term. Tracking and coaching are included in sleep plans to provide this long-term, ongoing assistance. 

Tracking

Personalized sleep plans also include sleep tracking. Participants document their progress in a sleep tracker provided by Goodpath and this information is shared with a coach. 

Tracking includes details about sleep, mood, and use of the treatments for insomnia such as supplements, body/mind exercises, sleep support tools and quick relief medicines. 

Coaching

Personalized plans also include coaching. A Goodpath healthcare professional is assigned to each person to act as their coach. The coach monitors the person’s progress, answers questions, and updates their sleep plan if needed.

Supplements that Help with Insomnia

Herbal Teas

Various herbal teas may help with sleep. Chamomile and passionflower are  herbs that may help lessen anxiety. And, relaxing while sipping tea can have a calming and soothing effect.

L-theanine

L-theanine, or theanine, is an organic substance found in green tea. 

L-theanine acts on several chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the brain including GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate. The combined effects promote relaxation and falling asleep, improve the quality of sleep, and decrease arousals.

Anyone taking medicine to lower blood pressure should use l-theanine with caution.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is an herb from the mint family. It contains chemicals with a calming or sedative effect. This is achieved through the components’’ effect on the neurotransmitter GABA. As with some of the other herbal products, lemon balm increases the level of GABA in the brain, thus inducing relaxation.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body that promotes sleep. Taking melatonin supplements at the appropriate times supports falling and staying asleep. 

A melatonin supplement may be immediate-release which means it takes effect in a short period of time. Melatonin may also be sustained-release which means when taken at bedtime, it is released slowly during the night.

Valerian

Valerian is a flowering herb that has been used to treat insomnia. In studies, the root of the herb was found to reduce the time it takes to reach and stay in deep sleep. This is because valerian also interacts with the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. As we said, GABA improves relaxation.

Melatonin, Valerian, Lemon Balm, Hops

In studies, the 4 ingredients of this supplement have been effective for sleep problems. 

Valerian and Tumeric

A combination of valerian and turmeric may be helpful when a person has both trouble sleeping and pain.

As with the single-ingredient product, the valerian root reduces the time it takes to reach and stay in deep sleep.

Turmeric is often used as a spice in foods from India and Southeast Asia. The plant contains many compounds including different types of curcumin. Studies have shown turmeric's active ingredient, curcumin, was effective in reducing inflammation--the body’s response to infection or injury, and pain.

Sleep Education for Insomnia

Sleep Hygiene

Proper sleep hygiene is a key part of insomnia treatment. Sleep hygiene refers to practices that promote quality sleep. 

Goodpath provides a guide to help you understand how and make changes to behaviors that negatively affect sleep. 

Sleep Advice

Certain lifestyle activities have an impact on sleep. For example, sleep may be affected by drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine, getting too little exercise, taking certain medicines, using tobacco products, or carrying excess weight.

How Goodpath Can Help

As you can see, treating insomnia may involve many different treatments. That is why Goodpath provides an integrative approach. 

We want you to have as many tools as possible to address your sleep problem. And, because it is your sleep problem we want it to be personalized to meet your needs.