Insomnia Treatment: Sleep Aids and Stimulants

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What is insomnia and what causes it?

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Insomnia is difficulty in falling or staying asleep, the absence of restful sleep, or poor quality of sleep. Insomnia is a symptom and not a disease. The most common causes of insomnia are:

Insomnia can also be caused by poor sleeping habits such as excessive daytime naps or caffeine consumption and poor sleep hygiene.

The National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health estimates 30%-40% of adults report some symptoms of insomnia each year, and about 10%-15% report they have chronic insomnia.

Insomnia may be classified by how long the symptoms are present.

  • Transient insomnia usually is due to situational changes such as travel, extreme climate changes, and stressful events. It lasts for less than a week or until the stressful event is resolved.
  • Short-term insomnia usually is due to ongoing stressful lifestyle or events, medication side effects or medical conditions and lasts for one to three weeks.
  • Chronic insomnia (long-term insomnia) often results from depression, digestive problems, sleep disorders, or substance abuse and continues for more than three weeks.

Transient insomnia may progress to short-term insomnia and without adequate treatment, and short-term insomnia may become chronic insomnia.

Among the medications and substances that can contribute to insomnia are:

Insomnia also may be the result of withdrawal from:

Insomnia can also result from poor sleep-related habits (poor sleep hygiene).


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Insomnia Treatment - Natural Remedies Question: Describe the natural remedies and lifestyle changes you've tried for your insomnia.
Insomnia Treatment - Causes Question: Are you stressed? If known, discuss the reason(s) for or causes of your insomnia.
Insomnia Treatment - OTC Medicine Question: Which OTC medications have you used to treat your insomnia? In your opinion, what works or what doesn't?
Insomnia Treatment - Doctors and Prescriptions Question: Why did you go to a doctor for your insomnia? What medication or treatment did he or she prescribe?
Insomnia Treatment - Caffeine and Sleep Question: Do you drink coffee, tea, or soda with caffeine? Do they affect your sleep habits? Have you cut back on caffeine?
Ambien Sleep Drug: What You Need to Know

Ambien: Sleeping Pill FAQs

Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Insomnia, the inability to sleep, is all too common in our society. Many people have transient sleep disturbances and treat them with over-the-counter medications, while others turn to their healthcare provider for prescription medications - and there are plenty of choices for medications. Each has its benefits and risks, indications, and side effects, and these medications are not interchangeable. More importantly, they aren't safe to use together.

Regardless of the mechanism of action of sleeping pills, they are all "downers." They depress brain function, and if too many are taken or if they are mixed with alcohol or other drugs, the breathing centers of the brain can be depressed to the point that the body stops breathing, and the person dies.

One prescription sleep medication is zolpidem(Ambien). Ambien is a sedative drug that works quickly; but as with any sleeping pill, it needs to be used in a wise manner.

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