You crawl into bed at a decent hour thinking tonight is the night you’re going to get your sleep back on track. Then you stare at the ceiling, eyes wide open, mind racing, with a good night’s sleep feeling more like a distant dream with every passing second.
You’re not alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about 70 million Americans deal with chronic sleep problems. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, up to 35 percent of adults struggle with insomnia, which means they have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep (at least on an occasional basis). And about 10 percent of people suffer from the longer-term type of insomnia, chronic insomnia, which means they find it difficult to get enough shut-eye at least three nights a week, for at least three months.
Once your doctor has ruled out other medical conditions that may be interfering with your sleep and given you a diagnosis of insomnia, treatment will typically include cognitive and behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), lifestyle changes, and if necessary, medication. “The most effective treatment for insomnia is CBT-I,” says Alon Avidan, MD, MPH, a professor of neurology and the director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center.
“CBT-I includes a number of different modalities, such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, stimulus control (which involves removing factors from the bedroom environment that might be perpetuating the insomnia, such as a clock or an electronic device), hypnosis, and sleep hygiene,” Dr. Avidan says. It helps retrain the brain to sleep by unlearning bad habits or thought patterns that are contributing to insomnia in the first place.
In 2016, the American College of Physicians revamped its insomnia treatment guidelines to make CBT-I the preferred first-line treatment for insomnia.
But complementary and integrative medicine approaches may also improve your sleep quality. In some cases, they’re part of CBT-I, and sometimes they can be used alongside other treatments (or on their own) to help you get back to sleep.
Some of these approaches, such as yoga or tai chi, come with little or no downside, Avidan says.
Other modalities, such as certain supplements or massage therapy, may carry the risk of interfering with other medications or treatments (or be unsafe for certain groups), so however harmless an approach might sound, it’s a good idea to let your physician know what you’re trying out (especially if you’re currently undergoing other treatments for insomnia or have another chronic health issue). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends this, too.
David Spiegel, MD, Willson professor and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford Medicine and medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, adds that integrative medicine techniques for insomnia can be an option before turning to medication.
If CBT-I alone isn’t working, trying something like hypnosis or biofeedback therapy carries fewer risks than medications for insomnia do, he says.
And before we even get into the natural integrative and complementary medicine approaches that might be helpful for insomnia, don’t forget to try some of the top-line do-it-yourself steps that can also support good sleep in general (whether you struggle with insomnia or not).
“Sleep is not an on-and-off switch,” says sleep expert and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, PhD, author of The Power of When. “Your body needs time to unwind and ready itself for shut-eye.”
Some ways to practice a good sleep hygiene routine include:
10 Integrative Medicine Remedies That May Help You Sleep
If you want to try these integrative medicine approaches to treat insomnia, here’s what sleep medicine experts want you to know before you try them, as well as which ones they say are downright risky:
This content was originally published here.