Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint effecting from 10% to 35% of people at least some of the time. Insomnia keeps people from sleeping well and feeling refreshed. You may be suffering if you have persistent difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep .

People with insomnia often feel tired, grumpy or have a hard time remembering things or concentrating. A lack of sleep can also affect how they function at work and while driving. It is important to seek a specialist to make sure it is not a sign of another sleep disorder or medical problem.

Insomnia may be caused by some types of medications & made worse by the use of caffeine or alcohol. It can even be a result of well-intentioned behaviors such as napping. It can also be related to depression, worry and stress.

3 Common treatment strategies are usually used to treat insomnia. Often the cause of insomnia has several factors and at SleepMed we have a multidisciplinary approach, enlisting the help of several key professionals to help.

1. Sleep hygiene

2. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

This involves relaxation exercises and other methods that help improve your sleep. A trained psychologist can help you unwind the cycle of anxiety and insomnia which are frequently closely tied and conditioned together. There is good evidence that this form of therapy is very effective.

3. Sleeping pills and sleeping aids
The most prescribed medications are hypnotics. At times insomnia is related to depression and anxiety. In these cases, anti-depressants may be prescribed to help insomnia.

Some people with insomnia try to treat themselves with nonprescription sleep aids that they find in pharmacies.. Some people even use alcohol to help them fall asleep. Doing this actually makes their sleep worse. There are many ways to treat insomnia that are common and effective. Always consult your Medical Practitioner before commencing on any treatments or seek a sleep specialist if your insomnia causes you to nod off during the day.

Helping Treat Insomnia: What works & what doesn't.

There are a number of products sold over-the-counter for the treatment of insomnia. Most however, have very little proof that they really do deliver on their promise to help you get a good night's sleep. The research to support the use of these products is poor and with often with several biases.

Below is a summary of some of the most popular products claiming to help you to sleep.

• Antihistamines
These are given to treat allergies usually. A common side-effect is drowsiness. Studies of antihistamines show that they do help patients sleep better. The studies included a control group who took a placebo ( a sugar pill with no real medicine, for comparison). The effect is mild, but positive Be aware though that other side-effects include a dry mouth & drowsiness during the day.

• Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that is released by the brain at night & helps regulate the brain’s internal clock. This clock tells the body when it is time to sleep at night & awake during the day – the “circadian rhythms”. The proven effects of melatonin include:
  1. It may help some people feel sleepy in a mild way. This effect has not been found in all cases.
  2. It can help people who suffer from jet lag. To be a benefit, it must be taken on the right schedule.
  3. It can be a big help to people who are blind. They often have an unusual cycle of sleeping and being awake. It can help them have a more normal pattern of sleep.
  4. The amount of melatonin in your body lowers as you get older. The results of studies in the elderly have not been able to prove that melatonin is helpful.
  5. It does not help older adults who have dementia to sleep better, except in rare cases.
    These studies have found melatonin to be fairly safe without any serious side effects. But many more tests need to be done to be certain. Studies have shown that melatonin can affect reproductive hormones when it is used at high doses. It also needs to be taken with caution if used with some psychiatric medicines. The effects of long-term use of melatonin are not known. it may have a mild effect, & effective timing of intake is critical to see the effects. Available products however have variable amounts & forms of melatonin in them an it is not regulated.

• Herbs
Valerian root & Chamomile are the most common & have some clinical backing. Others also claim to help but without supportive evidence.

• Alcohol
At first, alcohol will make you sleepy and shorten the time it takes for you to fall asleep. However over time, it can make your sleep worse. It causes you to wake up multiple times during the night. Late at night, you will spend more time awake. You will also spend less time in deep sleep. The effect that it has on people with insomnia has not been studied. It can also increase problems with snoring and sleep apnea.

• Vitamins and Minerals
No careful studies have shown that they help you sleep better in any way . Patients with kidney failure were studied as they took calcium . High levels of calcium actually caused them to have insomnia.

Niacin might help you sleep better. But there is still no data to show that it helps with insomnia. Niacin may cause you to have flushing, an upset stomach, and itching. It may interact with other medications such as statins. Iron (ferrous sulfate) may help some people who have trouble falling asleep due to restless legs syndrome. But you should first talk to your doctor. He or she may want to do blood tests. Iron can cause nausea and constipation. Magnesium is thought to play a natural role in human sleep. It has a part in the production of melatonin. There is no study to show that the use of magnesium helps to treat insomnia.


Most insomnia treatments that you can buy in stores have very little proof that they work and are safe. A few studies suggest that Valerian root helps but the effect is small. Melatonin may help those with insomnia due to jet lag, shift work or blindness. The evidence to support their use is still relatively small and short-term. Alcohol does not aid the overall quality of your sleep. It disrupts your sleep and causes you to spend more time awake at night. It can also make both insomnia and sleep apnea worse.