5 ways to cure insomnia
Millions of people living in the United States experience long-term sleep conditions like insomnia. If you’re having trouble sleeping, this can affect your daily life and cause issues such as memory loss.
Insomnia is a type of sleeping disorder that can cause the following symptoms:
- difficulty falling asleep
- waking up often
- forgetfulness and fatigue during the day
While sleep problems can be challenging, several methods may help treat insomnia.
Staying physically active
Getting enough physical activity, such as exercising, can help improve your overall health. It can boost your mood and help you sleep for longer, with better quality.
For example, a 2015 study showed how including at least 150 minutes of moderate to high intensity physical activity each week for 6 months helps reduce insomnia symptoms, including daytime tiredness. However, it is best not to exercise right before going to sleep.
Try a few different types of physical activity, such as walking, tai chi, jogging, strength training, or swimming, to find out which works best for you and gets you the best results.
Meditation is a practice that involves focusing on both your breath and the present moment. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, and even pain. On top of these benefits, meditation can also help improve your sleep quality and duration.
Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation that aims to relax your body and mind. It is also referred to as conscious sleep. A study from 2021 showed that yoga Nidra can help improve nighttime sleep in people with insomnia.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of behavioral therapy that helps you identify what’s causing your insomnia, with the goal of preventing these triggers and improving your sleep. CBT works by identifying which thoughts and behaviors affect your sleep patterns and teaching you how to stop them.
CBT typically involves the following:
- stimulus management, such as removing screens for a few hours before bedtime
- sleep restriction, where you limit the hours you can spend in bed
- relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing
This is a process that takes commitment and time but can have long-term benefits, especially if you combine them with medications.
Essential oils are natural plant extracts. They have strong scents, which means they can be useful in techniques like aromatherapy.
A 2019 research review evaluating the benefits of essential oils showed that they may help reduce the following:
- trouble sleeping
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Medications for insomnia
Some medications like melatonin may help you fall asleep more easily if you experience insomnia with a low risk of side effects.
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Melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally produces in the pineal gland during your sleep cycle, so taking additional supplements of this hormone may help speed up falling asleep.
According to one research review, on average, melatonin helped study participants fall asleep 7 minutes earlier and sleep 8 minutes more than when not taking the supplement.
Melatonin supplementation medications are available under many brand names, including Circadin and Adaflex. However, it is important to know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate melatonin the way it does prescription drugs. It can be helpful to speak with a doctor before taking them.
Prescription medications vary in how they work, how quickly they start to work, and how long they’re present in your body. A doctor will take these factors into account to decide whether medication is appropriate and if so, which one would be the most effective for you.
The FDA has approved many medications to treat insomnia, including:
- tricyclic antidepressants, such as low dose doxepin (Silenor)
- benzodiazepine receptor agonists, such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zaleplon (Sonata)
- melatonin receptor agonists, such as ramelteon (Rozerem)
- dual orexin receptor agonists (DORAs), such as daridorexant (Quviviq), lemborexant (Dayvigo), and suvorexant (Belsomra).
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When to speak with a doctor
Everyone may experience a lack of sleep occasionally, but it can sometimes interfere with day-to-day life. Regularly experiencing a lack of sleep or insomnia can be a major health risk.
If you consistently find it difficult to fall asleep or experience any of the following, consider speaking with a doctor:
- chronic restlessness
- cannot stay asleep
- do not feel refreshed after a good night’s sleep
- feel extreme fatigue during daytime
- wake up early unintentionally
It is common to find it difficult to fall asleep occasionally, but if you constantly experience this, you may have insomnia.
It is important to speak with a doctor about possible treatment options, including those that you can try at home, such as exercise and meditation.
If at-home treatment methods do not work, a doctor may prescribe you short-term medications to help relieve your symptoms.
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- Datta K, et al. (2021). Yoga nidra practice shows improvement in sleep in patients with chronic insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34825538/
- Freeman M, et al. (2019). Aromatherapy and essential oils: A map of the evidence. https://europepmc.org/article/MED/31851445/NBK551018#ch5.s3
- Hartescu I, et al. (2015). Increased physical activity improves sleep and mood outcomes in inactive people with insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25903450/
- Kanchibhotla D, et al. (2021). Improvements in sleep quality and duration following a meditation retreat: An open-trial pilot study. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41782-021-00162-4
- Rossman J, et al. (2019). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia: An effective and underutilized treatment for insomnia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6796223/
- Savage R, et al. (2022). Melatonin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534823/
- Shaha DP. (2023). Insomnia management: A review and update. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10416725/