There are different types of insomnia – and each of them should be diagnosed differently.
Transient insomnia is a temporary form of insomnia. You probably guessed this with the word, “transient” in the term. Transient insomnia can last a few days to a week.
The causes of transient insomnia include things such as Jet lag, noise, overexertion, stress, different types of medications, and extreme temperatures.
Acute insomnia means you have an episode of sleeplessness that may last for several weeks. Common causes of acute insomnia include emotional stress or conflict especially when something occurs that triggers the sleeplessness just before going to bed.
Some of the biggest triggers of acute insomnia include worry about a loved one or finances, anxiety and stress.
Chronic insomnia, which may last for months or years, can have profound effects on health, quality of life, productivity, and safety. It would be wise to consult a doctor to make sure there is no underlying disease causing long term insomnia. You shouldn’t have insomnia “forever”.
Common Treatments for Insomnia
Once your insomnia starts interfering with your daily life, it’s time to consider treatment of sleeplessness according to the National Sleep Foundation. Your regular doctor may be able to refer you to a sleep disorder specialist who can test you to see what the root o the problem is.
However, in the meantime, your doctor may prescribe one of these medications for insomnia:
These prescription medications are only meant for use for short periods of time. Some of the commonly prescribed medications in this category are Valium, Ativan, and Doral. They induce drowsiness and should not be taken by anyone who has a tendency to fall or walk. They may also cause dizziness.
Because of the drowsiness, benzodiazepines should not be used before you have to drive, as they could cause a car accident if you fall asleep behind the wheel. These drugs interrupt the body’s production of melatonin and interfere with your cognitive ability to remember information. They may also cause serious allergic reactions, and will worsen conditions such as breathing disorders and sleep apnea.
These drugs are also one of the types of prescription medications that are addictive and can land you in a drug detox rehabilitation facility.
Non-benzodiazepine hypnotic medications include drugs such as Ambien, Ambien CR, Intermezzo sublingual, Sonata, and Lunesta.
These prescription medication induce sleep by binding to a type of benzodiazepine receptor in the brain called omega-1 or affecting receptor sites close to GABA in the brain. Ambien was uniquely created to first induce sleep, then release another drug to keep you fast asleep.
There are problems with these drugs as well:
- They can interfere with coordination and balance and cause you to fall while walking or standing.
- They can also cause dizziness and cognitive dysfunction.
- They are not meant to be taken if you have any type of drug abuse right now, or a history of drug abuse in the past.
- They are not tested in pregnant women and may affect the fetus.
- They interact with other drugs such as alcohol, barbiturates, and antidepressants and can cause toxicity or magnify CNS depression.
Melatonin Receptor Agonists
The primary drug in this category is called Ramelteon. Prolonged release melatonin (MLT) and agomelatine are the two other drugs that affect melatonin in the body.
The mechanism for action of Ramelteon in the body is to go straight for the body’s melatonin receptors and mimic your natural hormone melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for your body’s natural sleep and wake cycles.
This medication doesn’t have the same effects as the benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines but it is still not natural for your body. If melatonin is responsible for your body’s natural sleep and wake cycles, then why not address melatonin directly? That’s what some people would argue.
Behavioral Therapy or Cognitive Therapy for Insomnia
Your doctor may also recommend some behavioral therapy techniques for you to interrupt your cycle of insomnia. For example, relaxation training teaches you how to relax your muscles of your body better. When a large percentage of your muscles are ‘told’ to relax, sleep occurs naturally.
Breathing exercises and even visualization exercises which may be done with a hypnotic tape or CD to listen to are also different types of behavioral therapies that may help you sleep.
Cognitive therapy works on some of the habits you have developed that are disrupting your sleep. For example, somewhere along the way you may have learned how to fight against getting up out of bed after waking up. You might be talking yourself out of falling asleep or waking up, and re-training yourself is important in getting your sleep cycles re-established. Your doctor would have to send you to a qualified sleep specialist for this type of training.