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Treatment of Sleep Disorders


With the improving recognition of sleep disorders, there is an associated increase in the variety of treatments available. Some treatments uniquely target specific conditions. Sleeping pills are commonly prescribed for insomnia, but behavioral changes may also be helpful. Medical equipment may include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), dental devices, and light boxes. Alternative therapies may include surgery and even herbal supplements. With a little education and perseverance, you can find the right treatment for you.
  1. Treatments by Condition
  2. Sleeping Pills for Insomnia
  3. Stimulants and Other Medications
  4. Over-the-Counter Medications and Supplements
  1. Behavioral Changes
  2. Medical Equipment
  3. Surgery for Sleep Apnea
  4. Alternatives

Treatments by Condition

Each sleep disorder is unique and some require a combination of different treatments, often including medications and behavioral changes. If you have been diagnosed with insomnia, sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, you may want to target your therapies in a specific way. You also may want to learn how to treat common conditions such as sleep paralysis and jet lag.

Sleeping Pills for Insomnia

Sleeping pills are often prescribed to treat insomnia. These prescription sleep aids include two major classes of medicines called benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepines. Common agents might include Ambien, Lunesta and Trazodone, but there are many other medications available. Although there are a variety of options, the selection of the best medication should take into account your other health conditions.

Stimulants and Other Medications

Aside from sleeping pills, there are other prescription medications that might be helpful in sleep disorders. If you suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, your doctor may prescribe a stimulant. There are certain medicines that are effective in restless legs syndrome, including gabapentin, mirapex and requip. In addition there may be a role for specific medications to treat bedwetting, nightmares and narcolepsy.

Over-the-Counter Medications and Supplements

Over-the-counter medications may be your first choice to treat your difficulty sleepy, especially if you have insomnia. It is important to select a sleeping pill that will be safe and effective. You may also consider using alternative herbal medications and supplements such as melatonin. Review your options to make an informed choice.

Behavioral Changes

In many ways, sleep is a behavior. As such, behavioral treatments can be very effective for conditions such as insomnia. From changing the patterns of sleep to intentional relaxation and cognitive therapy, there are many options to explore. In addition, parents can use behavioral techniques to help a child stop wetting the bed.

Medical Equipment

For some sleep disorders - including snoring, sleep apnea and circadian rhythm disorders - medical equipment serves as the mainstay of treatment. For sleep apnea this may include the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or a related therapy called bilevel or BiPAP. Oral appliances, dental devices and nasal dilators may also be employed. Circadian rhythm disorders are often treated with phototherapy using a light box. There are also other devices that may have a role in helping you to sleep better.

Surgery for Sleep Apnea

There are a handful of surgery options available to treat sleep disorders. Most target sleep apnea or snoring by removing or stabilizing tissue in the upper airway, especially in the throat around the tonsils. Newer treatments such as placement of a hypoglossal nerve stimulator are also becoming available. If obesity is contributing to your sleep apnea, you might want to learn about bariatric surgery to reduce your weight.


Aside from traditional therapies, many alternative treatments may effectively treat sleep disorders. These alternatives may include aromatherapy, taking naps or using caffeine. You might consider weight loss or even playing the didgeridoo to treat sleep apnea. You may want to learn how sleep apps for your smart phone may be useful. There are a variety of other options that might help you to sleep better.

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