Insomnia: Diagnosis and Treatment

If you’re struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep, then you may be experiencing insomnia. Find out how to diagnose insomnia and learn about the range of treatment options available for patients with insomnia.

Insomnia Diagnosis

There is no specific test to diagnose insomnia. Your doctor will first ask you about your medical history as well as your sleep history. You might have to fill out logs and questionnaires so that your sleep habits, like your bedtime, wake up time, the amount of time you spent awake, and many others, become clear.

If the cause of insomnia is unknown, your doctor may perform certain blood tests or doing an overnight sleep study to help you find the underlying cause and create the right treatment plan.

Insomnia Treatment

The treatment of insomnia depends on its severity and underlying cause. The goal is to achieve a normal sleep cycle. The treatment options available for insomnia include:

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a set of healthy sleep habits that you can do to improve your sleep patterns. In many cases, by practicing good sleep hygiene, you will be able to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

If changing your sleeping habits doesn’t help, you may be referred to a therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy that is designed for people with insomnia (CBT-I).

CBT-I is a type of psychotherapy therapy that helps you change or eliminate negative thoughts or actions that keep you awake. Generally, CBT-I is used as the first line of treatment for people with chronic insomnia, and it’s an effective treatment for many people and can have long-lasting results.

The common forms of CBT-I include:

Relaxation therapy

This therapy teaches you how to relax both your body and mind so you are able to fall asleep. Relaxation may involves breathing exercises, mental focusing and muscle relaxation techniques. This method can be used both during the day and at the bedtime.

Sleep restriction therapy

This therapy reduces the time you spend lying in bed awake by eliminating daytime naps and forcing you to stay up beyond your normal bedtime.

This method not only makes you more tired the next night, increasing the likelihood that you will fall asleep quickly, but it also builds a stronger association between bed and sleep rather than bed and lying awake. So, if you can train the brain to associate time in bed with sleeping you will sleep more efficiently and restfully. Over time, you will gradually increase the time in bed as you sleep more.

Stimulus control therapy

This method teaches you to use your bed only for sleep and sex, rather than reading, watching TV, or doing anything else. You are also taught to go to bed only when you feel very sleepy. If you are not asleep after about 20 minutes, then you have to get out of bed to do something else relaxing. When you feel sleepy again, then you return to bed.

This aims to help you associate the bedroom with sleep and establish a consistent sleep/wake schedule.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback is a technique that uses a device to teach you how to consciously control physiological functions such as heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, brain waves, and muscle tension. During biofeedback, you’re connected to electrical sensors that help you receive feedback about specific aspects of your body.

In order to sleep better, you are taught how to change either your brain waves or your muscle tension. You wear a device that signals to you the level of your muscle tension or brain wave frequency. You then try to change that level in a way that will help you sleep. The device uses a gauge, visual images or sounds to tell you how your level is changing.

These methods require you to focus and concentrate in order to see results. Some people may quickly learn the methods in just a few sessions. While others may need many sessions to master the techniques.

Sleeping pills

Sleeping pills can help you get a full night’s sleep. In the past, they were frequently used to help people with insomnia, but they’re used much less often nowadays.

Typically, sleeping pills are only prescribed for a few days or weeks at a low dose, and should be taken under the supervision of your doctor.

Prescription sleeping pills can have side effects, such as daytime drowsiness, and you can become dependent on them, so talk to your doctor about these medications and other possible side effects.

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