Insomnia Treatment: Sleep Aids and Stimulants
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- What is insomnia and what causes it?
- What are non-drug treatments for insomnia?
- What over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are there for insomnia treatment?
- What prescription medicines are there for insomnia treatment?
- What stimulant products are available OTC?
- Find a local Sleep Specialist in your town
What is insomnia and what causes it?
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:
- psychological conditions (for example, depression, anxiety),
- environmental changes (travel, jet lag, or altitude changes), and
- stressful events or a stressful lifestyle.
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:
- caffeine and coffee,
- decongestants (for example, pseudoephedrine),
- diuretics (for example, furosemide [Lasix], hydrochlorothiazide [Dyazide]) especially if taken in the evening or at bedtime,
- antidepressants (for example, bupropion [Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL, Zyban], fluoxetine [Prozac]),
- appetite suppressants (for example, sibutramine [Meridia], phentermine [Fastin]), and
- benzodiazepines (for example, diazepam [Valium], chlordiazepoxide [Librium], lorazepam [Ativan]),
- marijuana, and
- other addicting drugs.
Insomnia can also result from poor sleep-related habits (poor sleep hygiene).
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