Your treatment for insomnia will depend on the underlying cause of your sleep problems. This can range from a poor sleep environment to problems with your physical or mental health.
Once a diagnosis is made, our doctors will recommend the most effective treatment.
There are lots of ways our doctors can help if you’re having problems with your mental health.
They could refer you for a talking therapy, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), where you can discuss how you’re feeling and learn new ways to keep negative thoughts at bay.
In some cases, they may prescribe medication to help you manage your symptoms. They’ll discuss this with you in detail before prescribing anything, to make sure you’re happy with your treatment and understand the possible side effects.
There are some antidepressant medication that can help you sleep at night as well.
Find out more about how our doctors can treat:
Improving your sleep environment
The doctor will ask you some questions about your sleep environment and suggest any areas that could be improved.
- Buying a new mattress, particularly if you’ve had yours for longer than eight years.
- Trying a new pillow.
- Buying thicker curtains or using an eye mask to block out light.
- Using ear plugs to block out sound.
- Ensuring your room stays at a constant, comfortable temperature.
Treating sleep disorders
Sometimes insomnia is caused by another sleep disorder. Our doctors can advise you on the best way to treat and manage these conditions.
- Sleep apnoea - Our doctors will suggest ways to reduce your symptoms, such as losing weight or giving up smoking. Once a diagnosis is made you may be given a CPAP machine that will control your breathing while you sleep.
- Narcolepsy - While there’s no cure for narcolepsy, our doctors can help you structure a routine that will ensure your symptoms have a minimal impact on your everyday life.
- Sleepwalking - It’s hard to predict or stop sleepwalking, but our doctors can help you create a sleep environment and routine that makes it less likely, as well as advising your partner or family members how they can keep you safe.
- Night terrors - Our doctors will try and find out what’s causing your night terrors, and may refer you to a mental health professional for specialist treatment.
Lifestyle and habits
If your insomnia is caused by certain habits or lifestyle choices, it’s possible that you could get rid of it by making a few simple changes to your routine. These include:
- Giving up smoking.
- Moderating your alcohol intake.
- Avoiding caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Eating your evening meal early enough that your body can digest it before you head to bed.
- Avoiding exercise too close to bedtime.
It’s also important to keep electronic devices out of the bedroom. Watching TV, or using your laptop or smartphone in bed exposes you to ‘blue light’, which sends a message to your body that it’s not time for sleep yet. It’s important that your body only associates bed with sleep and sex.
It’s also a good idea to switch the TV off an hour before you intend to go to bed, in order to create a calm, peaceful environment.
There are a number of conditions that could affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Our doctors can provide treatment for the following underlying causes of insomnia:
- A heart or respiratory condition - Our doctors can recommend lifestyle changes or prescribe medication that will manage your symptoms, or refer you to a specialist if needed.
- Allergies - Our doctors can prescribe antihistamines to treat any allergies that are keeping you awake at night.
- Joint pain - Our doctors can prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain from arthritis, or refer you to a physiotherapist to manage your pain.
- An overactive thyroid - Our doctors can refer you to a specialist endocrinologist who can help you.
- Urinary incontinence - Our doctors can investigate the reason why you need to get up to pee during the night and provide appropriate treatment.
What about sleeping pills?
Our doctors will only suggest sleeping pills as a last resort, or as a temporary measure until you can see a specialist. They certainly wouldn’t recommend that you try to self-medicate with over-the-counter tablets or herbal remedies.
The reason for this is that sleeping pills do not offer effective long term treatment. They don’t treat the underlying cause of your insomnia, they simply mask the symptoms.
Using sleeping tablets too much can mean that you become dependent on them, while it’s likely that your body will build up a resistance to the medicine over time. There’s also the possibility of side effects with certain medicines.
If you have insomnia, the best thing you can do is see one of our online doctors to discuss a professional and effective treatment that will help you get a good night’s sleep.