June 24, 2022 – Hours go by with you tossing and turning, with no hope of escape into comfy, restful sleep. Or worse, you’re exhausted with no chance of dozing off before the dreaded morning alarm. If this isn’t you, it may be someone very close to you, suggest the results of a new survey.
A report published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) that featured more than 2,000 Americans found that almost 3 in 10 have insomnia, and more than half may be self-medicating. What’s more, 28% of the people in the study reported that insomnia worsened their lives and daily routines. The survey also found that nearly one-third of Americans reported new or worsening sleep problems since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While insomnia can lead to trouble falling or staying asleep, chronic insomnia may do more damage than bad sleep, commonly making anxiety, depression, and pain worse, according to an insomnia study published in the journal Medical Clinics of North America.
Dealing with insomnia and conditions that come with it could explain why 64% of Americans reported using sleep aids or medications to help ease their insomnia. More than one-fourth (27%) of people in the study regularly use melatonin, 23% use prescription medications, and 20% use marijuana orcannabidiol (also known as CBD) to fall or stay asleep. Meanwhile, nearly 4 in 10 (37%) of those who take sleep aids said they used the products more throughout the pandemic.
Sleep aids like melatonin can work well with the right guidance, according to the Medical Clinics of North America study. But when researchers took a look at the different medications and supplements for insomnia, they found some cause for concern. Dietary sleep aids, including valerian, kava-kava, and skullcap, are unregulated and require more evidence to prove that they work. Even melatonin should not be used for chronic insomnia, according to the AASM clinical guidelines, which is advice for chronic insomnia treatment from experts in sleep medicine and sleep psychology.
According to the guidelines, these treatments could help the people in the study with insomnia and others with this condition:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)
- Relaxation therapy, including controlled breathing and meditation
- Using the bed for sleep and sex only; no reading or watching TV in bed
- Seeing a medical provider for help with a treatment plan
CBT-I is recommended as the first treatment for insomnia in the AASM clinical guidelines. A review of trials published in the Southern Medical Journal found CBT-I to be just as effective as sleep medications.
Insomnia has no known cure, and what works for one person may not work for another. Talk with your doctor if you need help resolving your symptoms.