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Consider Getting Sleep Help if You Can't Sleep

Long and short term insomnia is very common nowadays, and doctors’ face more and more patients asking for sleep help. Sleeplessness can be a side effect of various diseases or have an obvious cause, but often there is no real explanation for the problem, and so many generic treatments are used.


Often people turn to medication for sleep help, feeling like there are no other options. However, this is not going to solve the problem and will only provide temporary relief. Many people still underestimate the importance of sleep, or rather, of quality sleep. 

Prescription sleeping aids are furthermore proven to not provide you with the same quality of sleep that other, non-pharmaceutical, treatments can. Another big issue with medication is that it teaches the body that it needs certain chemicals to sleep, making it difficult to stop taking them and try other methods. If you're thinking about taking something for your sleep problems, we advise trying some all natural sleep aids.

If the insomnia is not very severe, small adjustments to a person’s everyday life can fix the issue. It is important to create a calm environment to sleep in, as well as to calm you body before bed. When your brain is overactive and not allowed to wind down before bed, it will be harder to fall asleep, even when feeling tired. This is why sleep issues can often be helped with a few, simple changes in lifestyle.

Results on a sleep study showed that 80% of patients slept better and felt more rested during the day on structured non-drug therapy, than on traditional sleeping medications. Non-drug sleep therapy is based partly on teaching certain psychological principals to help sleep. Amongst other things, there is a focus on regulating the time spent in bed, and the importance of the bed only being used for sleep is emphasized.

If you're looking for advice, a great place to start is the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA). More and more specialists at sleep clinics are choosing to treat their patients with cognitive sleep therapy, to battle the core of the problem rather than providing quick, pharmaceutical relief. Some of the most common sleep help techniques are listed below.

sleep helpStimulus Control Therapy

Stimulus control therapy is a type of sleep help, used to correct bad sleep behavior, and to strengthen the association between sleep and bed. Patients are given a set of instructions that must be followed carefully. It is emphasized that the bed should only be used for sleep, not for work, watching TV, reading or other things (sexual activity is permitted). 

If the patient does not sleep in a short period of time (such as within 15-30 minutes), they should stand up, leave the bedroom, and not return to bed until feeling sleepy again. The time to get up in the morning is predetermined and cannot be adjusted by the amount of sleep the patient actually gets every night. This treatment requires a motivated patient who is able to follow the instructions. 

Treatment is difficult and a worsening of sleep is often seen for the first 1-2 weeks before an improvement occurs. It is important to prepare the patient for this. 

 

According to a large study overview based on 59 different treatments with over 2000 patients, stimulus control therapy proved to be the most efficient form of treatment for conditions such as chronic insomnia. Research results show that about 80% of patients get better sleep. It also appears that the effect of treatment persist after treatment.

 

Sleep Restriction

sleep helpMany patients with poor sleep end up spending a long time in bed, hoping to get at least some rest. It is not uncommon for patients to only sleep for about five hours after being in bed for 9-10 hours. This is considered a major factor in sleep maintenance difficulties, and why sleep restriction therapy aims to reduce the time spent in bed until the time the patient actually falls asleep and is able to complete a complete set of sleep cycles

A sleep diary is used to figure out how long the patient sleeps. It is recommended that the time in bed never be reduced to less than five hours. If the calculated length of sleep per night is at 5.5 hours, the patient’s time in bed should be limited to 5.5 hours. 

In consultation with the doctor, the patient may decide for himself when he wants to get up in the morning, and then estimate the time they should go to bed, i.e. go to bed at 1:30 am and get up at 7:00 in the morning. 

The time the patient will stay in bed is adjusted from consultation to consultation, based on changes in a parameter called sleep efficiency (total sleep time divided by time in bed, in percent). A sleep efficiency of 50% means being is awake half the time you are in bed. As you get older, your sleep efficiency can also be affected by your sleep spindles getting shorter.

When dealing with sleep restriction, the time in bed will normally be increased when a sleep efficiency of 80-85% is reached, and remain unchanged if the number is below 80%.The increase in time in bed is often done in 15 minute increments. Follow-up is done using sleep diaries. Treatment is difficult for the patient; like with stimulus control therapy the sleep is often worsened initially and improvement occurs after some time.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation treatment aims to reduce physical or mental activity. There are various types of relaxation methods used for sleep help, including progressive relaxation training, autogenic training, mental relaxation and meditation

Some physical therapists and other health professionals swear by such methods to help sleep. The effect is documented, but these techniques most often do not give as good of results as stimulus control therapy and sleep restriction.

sleep helpCombination of different therapies

It is possible to combine these various non-drug treatment principles. One can expect a significant improvement in sleep by such structured, non-drug sleep therapy and it will often help the sleep issues long term. 

Furthermore, results from extensive research emphasizes that these therapies are effective for chronic insomnia in all ages, so they are also beneficial for sleep disorders in children. It is essential that the patient is motivated for the non-drug treatments to succeed, and both stimulus control therapy and sleep restriction are demanding treatment for patients.

Useful Links:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT, for short), is often used to treat anxiety disorders. It involves changing the way you think about things. This can be extremely useful for sleep anxiety, for example. Read more about what CBT can do for your troubled sleeping at Carol's website Get Self-Help.

Help With Sleep Disorders in Australia

Sleep Disorders Australia (SDA) is a voluntary group offering assistance and support to those persons and their families who are living with sleep disorders throughout Australia.  Membership is available to all sufferers, members of their family, medical professionals, and any member of the public who has an interest in the area of sleep disorders.


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