Improve Sleep Health Without Medication
Many adults suffer from poor sleep health. In fact, one in three adults doesn't get enough sleep on a regular basis. Often, these adults get less than seven hours of sleep each night.
Adequate sleep is needed to support your health and well being. When you don't get enough sleep, you can suffer both physically and mentally. It's difficult to find the energy you need to face the challenges of every day, and your concentration and memory can suffer if you don't get enough sleep.
But sleep deprivation can cause more than a sluggish day: it can lead to dangerous chronic conditions. Sleeping less than seven hours per day can put you at a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, and mental distress. When you're sleep deprived, you're at a higher risk of driving drowsy, which can be deadly. And sleep deprivation can hurt your mental health, making it more difficult for you to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
There are many different treatment options available for insomnia and other difficulties with sleep. Prescription medications are one of those options. However, they are generally not recommended long term, and they can have serious side effects including an increased risk of injury and daytime grogginess. Additionally, they can be habit-forming.
Generally, prescription medications are a last resort for sleep health. For most people, it's better to try other treatment options first, as they typically do not come with the risks, side effects, and other drawbacks of prescription medications for sleep. They can be more affordable as well. Effective non-medication treatment options for sleep disorders include cognitive behavioral therapy, lifestyle changes, over the counter sleep aids, and alternative therapies including acupuncture and yoga.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you develop good sleep habits with treatments including stimulus control, sleep restriction, remaining passively awake, and practicing relaxation techniques. Light therapy can also be effective in helping you reset your internal clock.
- Sleep hygiene: Lifestyle changes can help you improve your sleep hygiene and sleep better at night. It's a good idea to stick to a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine and get exercise throughout the day. Avoid or limit naps, caffeine, and alcohol, and avoid nicotine use. Don't eat large meals before bed, and avoid drinking beverages before bed. Get treatment for painful conditions, and check your medications to make sure they're not interfering with your ability to sleep well. Consider your sleep environment, making sure your bedroom is comfortable and conducive to sleep. If your bed isn’t comfortable, you can research affordable mattresses online. Do your best to be calm before bed, and avoid screen time at least one hour before bedtime, as it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
- Alternative medicine: Alternative medicine can be effective in treating sleep struggles. Acupuncture may ease insomnia symptoms, and regular yoga practice may improve sleep quality and reduce stress. Meditation can help you relax, reduce stress, and drift off to sleep. Herbal medicine shows promise as well. Some people try over the counter supplements including melatonin and valerian. These may still have side effects, but usually, people do not become dependent on them.
If you or a loved one has trouble sleeping, start by improving sleep habits. It’s a free lifestyle remedy that can promote healthy sleep for a lifetime. However, if healthy sleep habits aren’t working, you can try other treatments or visit a doctor to rule out sleep disorders. With time, you should be able to sleep more and feel better.