Treatment for insomnia depends on what is causing your sleep problems. For example, some people can help restore healthy sleep patterns by practicing good sleep habits (also known as good sleep hygiene). People with medical conditions such as restless legs syndrome (RLS) or sleep apnea are likely to need medical help in combination with good sleep hygiene to better manage or resolve the medical condition. When necessary, doctors may prescribe medication to help restore healthy sleep patterns.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you manage or eliminate worries
Managing thoughts and activities (stimuli) that keep you awake
Reducing the amount of time you spend in bed when not sleeping
Light therapy, including getting more sunshine or using a full-spectrum light box
Tips for Getting the Sleep You Need
If you have slept poorly for a 3 or fewer nights, you often can take steps to restore a good sleep pattern on your own. But if you continue sleeping poorly and begin experiencing changes in daytime functioning, you should see a sleep expert.
Whether your sleep problems are transient, short-term, or chronic, it is important to practice good sleep habits (also known as good sleep hygiene).
Good sleep hygiene includes maintaining a regular, healthy sleep / wake cycle each day, 7 days a week, including:
Limiting the time you spend in bed awak if you are having trouble sleeping at night
Getting 20 minutes of sunlight each day or light therapy with a full-spectrum light box
Exercising and being active in the morning or late afternoon
If you are having difficulty sleeping, avoid vigorous exercise 2 hours before bedtime
Engaging in relaxation techniques in the afternoon and evening, including:
Progressive muscle relaxation
Avoiding caffeine 6 hours before bedtime
Avoiding alcohol, nicotine, and other stimulants
If you are planning to have alcohol, have it early in the evening
Avoiding large, heavy meals and snacks before bedtime
Avoiding going to bed hungry
A light snack can sometimes help you sleep better
Avoiding naps during the day
If you are having trouble sleeping at night, it is best to entirely avoid napping during the day; but if you must doze off during the day, limit your nap to 30 or fewer minutes
Maintaining a relaxing bedtime routine, including:
Go to bed at the same time each night
Wake at the same time each morning
Avoid upsetting conversations
Avoid vigorous activities
Avoid going over events of your day and planning the next day
Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool room
Using your bed only for sleep and sex
Avoid watching television, listening to the radio, and reading in bed
If you cannot fall asleep or if you wake and cannot return to sleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and relax in another room.
Avoiding sleeping pills for more than 1 or 2 nights per month and avoiding them entirely if you have obstructive sleep apnea
Medications to Treat Insomnia
When necessary, your doctor might prescribe medication for a limited time to help restore your sleep schedule.
Some prescription medications that can help you sleep are:
Nonprescription medications that some people believe can help with sleep are:
Antihistamines such as Benadryl®, which can make you drowsy.
Melatonin, an over-the-counter (OTC) drug that can help supplement the body’s natural melatonin supply. There are no data to support melatonin supplements for insomnia
Valerian, a dietary supplement with a mild sedative effect. Although valerian has not been thoroughly studied in clinical trials, it has been associated with liver problems when it is used long term and/or in high doses. If you are taking and want to stop taking valerian, you must gradually reduce the dose
Because some over-the-counter drugs
are not safe or can interact with other medications,
talk with your doctor first
before taking a nonprescription medication
to help you sleep.