Before deciding which treatment is best for an individual’s sleep disorder, understanding the underlying cause is important. Regardless of the cause, treatment usually consists of a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes. If underlying health issues or environmental factors cannot be determined or changed, a variety of treatment options are available to help patients overcome their sleep disorders.
Medication for Treating Sleep Disorders
Based on research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, medication is the most common treatment for all the major sleep disorders. While the type of medication may differ depending on the disorder, the use of medication combined with other treatments is common.
Medication for sleep disorders may include:
- Sleeping pills
- Medication for an underlying health problem
- Melatonin supplements
- Allergy or cold medication
Some people benefit from certain types of medication treatment. A few common sleep disorders that use medication as a primary treatment option include:
- Insomnia: Medications used to treat this disorder are called hypnotic medications which allow the individual to breathe easier, fall asleep and remain asleep.
- Narcolepsy: Stimulants decrease the effects of daytime sleepiness while antidepressants combat other narcolepsy symptoms like muscle weakness, sleep paralysis and hallucinations. Individuals with narcolepsy may also be given medicine to help prompt sleep.
- Sleepwalking: Sedatives and anti-depressants may treat sleepwalking.
- REM Behavior Disorder: Anxiety and seizure treatment medicine are almost always effective at treating REM behavior disorder.
Medication for Reducing Aggression
Aggression is associated with poor sleep quality, often leading to a sleep disorder. Modifying angry behavior with medication can improve sleep quality. There are several medicines that are prescribed to individuals who suffer from sleep disorder by reducing aggression. A few of these anger-reducing medications include:
- Benzodiazepines: treat acute agitation or aggression but can cause puzzling reactions. These medications have a potential for abuse and, therefore, should not be used on a regular basis.
- Antipsychotics: cause sedation in high doses and used for reducing agitation and aggression in patients. They have a lower risk for repetitive, purposeless or involuntary movements which may occur during sleep.
- Antidepressants: reduce anxiety, irritability and emotions that may cause agitation.
- Mood Stabilizers: used to control aggression in several psychiatric conditions, such as dementia, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The standard recommendation for individuals exhibiting aggressive behavior is to take antipsychotic medication. However, when sleep disorders are involved, they may or may not be the best option for treating the individual’s particular disorder. The best medications for sleep disorders can be suggested by a professional therapist or your physician.
Therapy for Sleep Disorders
Sleep medication won’t cure the individual’s sleep problem or address the underlying symptoms. For this reason, many patients seek other sources of treatment, including therapy. Medication may help treat the short-term issue, however, it could result in worsening sleep problems over a long period of time. People who take sleep medication may also become dependent on their prescriptions as their tolerance to the drug makes them less effective. Even if the diagnosed sleep disorder requires the use of prescription medications, treatment will be more effective with a combination of the drug, therapy and healthy lifestyle changes.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Many sleep disorders are connected to behavior patterns that have emotional and social consequences, such as anxiety, depression and other health problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common treatment for individuals learning to manage several different sleep disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy will help change the individual’s behavior before bedtime and the way of thinking that keeps them up at night.
Cognitive behavioral therapy also emphasizes the improvement of relaxation skills and lifestyle habits that influence your sleeping patterns. This can be an effective way of treating the symptoms as well as the underlying problem and ultimately can help someone develop a healthy sleeping ritual.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Sleep Quality
Adjustments to a person’s lifestyle can significantly improve their quality of sleep. Lifestyle changes can include daily routine, habits, diet, exercise and work schedule. Reducing stress may aid in the treatment of sleep disorders as well as sticking to a strict bedtime schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can significantly increase your quality of sleep as well.
Changing what you eat and when you eat may greatly benefit the quality of sleep and reduce sleep disorder symptoms. Diet can cause symptoms from depression to increased energy. For the best chance of restful sleep, increasing the number of vegetables and protein and decreasing sugar intake can be extremely helpful. Caffeine may hinder treatment of a sleep disorder, especially if it is consumed in late afternoon or evening. Other substances to avoid treating a sleeping disorder include:
- Water before bedtime
- High-carbohydrate meals, especially before bedtime
Exercise, especially if done early in the day, has been shown to dramatically improve sleep quality. Adding physical activity to a daily routine has been proven to help people fall asleep faster at bedtime. Exercise also causes an individual to spend more time in deep sleep, waking less during the night.
Treatment for Sleep Disorders and Co-Occurring Conditions
Many individuals who seek treatment for their sleep disorder struggle with co-occurring conditions, such as substance abuse. These individuals will soon find that self-medicating will only cause more difficulty with sleep. The most effective treatment will help individuals identify the origin of their struggles and empower them to progress in recovery.
Sleep Disorders and Addiction
Sleeping pills and prescription medications are often overused by individuals with sleeping disorders. When used continuously, the individual will become dependent on the drug. When addiction is present, it is important to treat the substance use disorder and sleep disorder simultaneously. Addiction can create more severe sleep problems and hinder any treatment that focuses on sleep alone.
If you or a loved one needs treatment for a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health condition, The Recovery Village can help. There are facilities located throughout the country that offer comprehensive treatment for co-occurring disorders. To learn more, call The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative.