Sleep Aids and Insomnia

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daytime sleepiness. In addition, OTC sleep aids should be avoided by people with breathing problems, glaucoma, chronic bronchitis, and difficulty urinating because of an enlarged prostate gland, or women who are pregnant or nursing.

Other products sold to promote sleep include:

  • valerian (a root that may be steeped in hot water for tea)
  • melatonin (an artificial or animal form of a substance produced by humans that is linked to sleep)

Herbal products and nutritional supplements (such as melatonin) are not required to undergo the same rigorous testing as drugs do in order to meet government standards. Their long-term impact, side effects and possible interactions with other drugs or medical conditions are often not known. More research is needed.


Fortunately, sleep specialists have devised a variety of approaches for treating insomnia. Behavioral approaches involve actions you can take. Medication may help you sleep as you try these sleep-friendly practices. Combining behavioral and medical approaches works well for many people.

Behavioral approaches range from limiting the time spent in bed to making a stronger mental connection between bed and sleep. This latter approach is called stimulus control . Studies suggest that these two strategies are the most effective behavioral approaches.

Stimulus control focuses on the association between your bed and sleep. Do you find yourself balancing a checkbook or writing a letter in bed? In this way you link bedtime with alerting activities rather than sleeping. The stimulus control approach helps you think more about your bed as a place for sleeping.

Also, put relaxation back in your bedroom by using your bed only for sleep and sex, getting in bed only when you're tired, and getting out of bed if you don't fall asleep within 15 minutes. Try a relaxing activity.

A sleep specialist may help you use stimulus control and sleep restriction strategies properly.

If you suffer from insomnia, consider the following guidelines for better sleep:

  • Exercise regularly, about six hours before you want to sleep.
  • Avoid napping.
  • Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day.
  • Save your worries for daytime. (If concerns