Curing Insomnia: Causes, Treatment, and Sleep Aids (part 2)
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Author: Metamorpheus, posted on 1/16/2012 , in Category "Health & Fitness"
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Abstract: What is Insomnia? What Causes Insomnia? How to Sleep? This article addresses these questions, offers helpful non-medicine treatment strategies and 12 tips to set up a good night sleep. Part 2.

[Updated July 30] 
Part 1
explained what is insomnia, common causes to insomnia, and offered non-medicine strategies to treat insomnia. The following part 2 describes valuable sleep aids and 12 sleep hygiene tips that will help you to set up a good night sleep.

Self-help and sleep aids

Some self help sleep aids that may help you enter the realm of dreams include:
  • Binaural bits. Binaural beats are the result of the interaction of two separate auditory impulses received from the two ears. Binaural beats music has proved efficient in the management of certain psychological disorders such as alcoholism, neurological conditions, and preoperative anxiety. The basic principle on which binaural beats audio tapes are based is a progressive process that begins with a frequency difference between the two sounds arriving at the two ears, which correspond to the brainwaves that characterize the actual state of consciousness. Gradually, the frequency difference is reduced until it reaches the values of the brainwaves typical to deep sleep state (theta / delta waves) [8].
  • Isochronic tones. Isochronic tones are regular bursts of sound that are timed to the target entrainment frequency [11]. Brainwave entrainment is a practice that aims to cause your brainwave frequencies to match a certain brain-state (such as sleep). The tones are produced outside the brain so headphones are not required.
  • Progressive muscular relaxation. Progressive muscular relaxation is a technique developed by Jacobson in 1934, which is based on the idea that tension is created by anxiety provoking thoughts and events. The technique includes tensing and relaxing muscles progressively in different body parts, which reduces physiological tension [10].
  • Music relaxation. Music relaxation allows the concentration on external or imagined situations. It improves sleep efficiency and reduced anxiety [10].

Sleep hygiene education: how to sleep

The following suggestions offer some easy to implement health practices and environmental factors to support the formation of an environment that will help you sleep [3, 4, 7]:
  1. Bedtime. Lower unrealistic expectations for the amount of time you should sleep.
  2. Bed and arising schedules. Try to maintain regular bed and arising times. In order to help regulate help regulate your body clock, minimize the use of very bright lights before bedtime and expose yourself to bright morning light or bright artificial light indoors during morning hours.
  3. Don’t eat before bedtime. Heavy meals right before bedtime can disturb sleep.
  4. Exercise: patients who exercise regularly tend to sleep better than those who do not, however, exercise before bedtime tends to disturb sleep.
  5. Alcohol. Though many report that alcohol helps to relax and therefore go to sleep, alcohol clearly fragments and distorts the sleep itself.
  6. Caffeine, like alcohol, should be banned at least six hours before bedtime.
  7. Nicotine. While some report that nicotine helps them to relax, and therefore go to sleep, it acts as a central nervous-system stimulant and can cause sleep problems for heavy smokers.
  8. Pre-bed activities. In order to fall asleep, the arousal level must be lowered. Quiet activities before bedtime, such as relaxing in a hot bath, reading, meditating, or praying can help speed onset by reducing arousal. Gentle movement may also help reduce stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
  9. Naps. All naps should be avoided. Even those who take naps regularly have poorer sleep than those who do not.
  10. The bedroom environment. The bedroom must be a quiet, pleasant environment, with controlled temperature, light, and noise. Arousing activities, such as homework, paperwork, bill paying, or problems discussions, should be conducted outside the bedroom. 
  11. The bed. The bed should be used for sleeping, and not for eating or watching television. Sex is an exception, where many report that sex and orgasm act as a soporific (others, however, report the opposite). This is to avoid the bed becoming a conditioned stimulus for work, anxiety, lying awake, etc.
  12. Minimize the use of electronic media for about one hour before bedtime.

Final thoughts

The increase in the requirements of the modern life may make it difficult to lead a healthy life, without worries, anxiety, pressure, or any other factor that may contribute to sleeping problems. For many, how to sleep is a question asked on a daily basis. This article offers insomnia treatment strategies and techniques, to help you enter the world in which illusions are vivid and dreams are reality.

  1. Harvey, A.G., A Cognitive Theory and Therapy for Chronic Insomnia. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 2005. 19(1): p. 41-59.
  2. Harvey, A.G., Trouble in Bed: The Role of Pre-Sleep Worry and Intrusions in the Maintenance of Insomnia. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: Special Issue on Intrusions in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, 2002. 16(2): p. 161-177.
  3. Puterbaugh, D.T., Searching for a Good Night's Sleep: What Mental Health Counselors Can Do About the Epidemic of Poor Sleep. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 2011. 33(4): p. 312.
  4. Benca, R.M., Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Insomnia: A Review. Psychiatric Services, 2005. 56(3): p. 332-43.
  5. Stoia-Caraballo, R., M.S. Rye, et al., Negative affect and anger rumination as mediators between forgiveness and sleep quality. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2008. 31(6): p. 478-88.
  6. Leger, D. and B. Poursain, An international survey of insomnia: under-recognition and under-treatment of a polysymptomatic condition. Current Medical Research and Opinion, 2005. 21(11): p. 1785-92.
  7. Ware, J.C., The Symptom of Insomnia: Causes and Cures. Psychiatric Annals, 1979. 9(7): p. 27,30-31,34-35,39-43,47-49.
  8. Alexandru, B.V., B. Róbert, et al., Treating primary insomnia: a comparative study of self-help methods and progressive muscle relaxation. Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, 2009. 9(1): p. 67-82.
  9. Saddichha, S., Diagnosis and treatment of chronic insomnia. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, 2010. 13(2): p. 94-102.
  10. Ziv, N., Tomer Rotem, et al., The Effect of Music Relaxation versus Progressive Muscular Relaxation on Insomnia in Older People and Their Relationship to Personality Traits. Journal of Music Therapy, 2008. 45(3): p. 360-80.
  11. Gibbs, M., Programming your brain. Network World, 2007. 24(1): p. 22-22.

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