Insomnia – What is it and How Can it be Treated?

Woman in bed
Insomnia is a common condition that affects your every day living, but there are remedies.

Do you often lie awake at night unable to sleep? If you do, then perhaps you’re suffering from the sleep disorder insomnia.

It’s very common. 10 to 15 people out of every 100 have problems getting to sleep. It is a disorder which affects your daily life because lack of sleep means it’s hard to concentrate, you feel fatigued, and you may be falling asleep in the middle of the day.

Insomnia types

There are three main types of insomnia, and they are:

Waking in the early morning – When you wake up in the morning earlier than you need to, but you can’t get back to sleep

Sleep Onset Insomnia – This is the insomnia that is most recognisable. It means you take a long time to go to sleep, sometimes lying awake for hours.

Sleep Maintenance Insomnia – You keep waking up from your sleep during the night and afterwards find it difficult to fall asleep again.

What causes insomnia?

There are a few causes, but the main reasons are stress, anxiety, and depression. You can also develop insomnia if you are angry, worried, or grieving. There are also medical conditions that can cause insomnia including chronic pain, arthritis, allergies, and neurological conditions. Insomnia can affect women because of hormone changes.

Poor sleep habits also bring on insomnia. If you are a shift worker, you don’t have a good sleep environment or you spend a lot of the evening browsing a phone or tablet.

How do I know I am suffering from insomnia?         

Experts say there are six points to look for if you think you might have insomnia and these six points are:

  • Difficulty going to sleep, waking regularly and not being able to get back to sleep if you wake before you need to get up
  • You have the time to sleep but you still find it difficult
  • You have sleep problems at least 3 times a week
  • The difficulties last for 3 months or more
  • It affects the way you function during the day
  • Your sleep problems aren’t related to another illness

Should I see my doctor?

If you’ve been having sleep problems for a month or so and it is impacting your daily living, then you should see a doctor. It’s a good idea to take a sleep diary with you. Keep one for two weeks. You can download the sleep diary here. Fill it out every morning and evening and show your GP.

What are the treatments for insomnia?

It could be that you need to focus on things that are causing you stress and worry and once these are dealt with your sleep problems could improve. Your doctor might recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).

During your sessions, you’ll be taught methods to help you manage your worries and stress. You’ll also work on changing negative habits and replacing them with positive behaviour that will help your insomnia.

You might be advised to create a calming sleep environment, give up browsing your phone or tablet in bed and stop using the bedroom for anything other than sleep. Spending less time in bed when you’re awake is another proven method for insomnia whereby you only go to bed when you are sleepy.

Breathing exercises and mindfulness practices may also help. You may be taught to meditate or use relaxation techniques.

What about medication?

Your doctor might prescribe sleeping pills for you to use for a few weeks. They can’t be used long-term because they are addictive and there can be side-effects.

Can I buy any remedies at the pharmacy?

Yes, over-the-counter remedies are available. You could try herbal sleep brands like Nytol which comes in liquid or tablet form and contains Valerian root extract which traditionally treats mild anxiety and helps you to sleep.

Another remedy is Sominex. These tablets are in a traditional or herbal variety. The traditional tablets contain promethazine hydrochloride which is used to treat sleep problems and anxiety. The herbal tablets contain Valerian and passionflower which are meant to soothe and calm the body.

Kalms are also recommended for sleeping problems. You can buy Kalms Night and Kalms One-a-Night to help you sleep or try Kalms Day for stress and Kalms Lavander for anxiety.

Further help

If you want to know more about insomnia and you’d like to take a short test with a sleep score have a look at the NHS Insomnia page which is packed with helpful advice and information.

Do you need any help or advice on choosing a herbal product? If so, speak to us here at the pharmacy and we’ll be able to advise you on the best product for your needs.


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