Treatment of insomnia aims to reduce the impact on your daytime functioning and improve your sleep quality. Although insomnia can go away on its own, it's important to talk to your doctor if your sleep problems continue.
Treatment of insomnia includes:
You may be referred to a sleep specialist to find out other causes if these treatments don't work for you.
Sleep hygiene refers to aspects of your lifestyle and bedtime environment that make it easier or harder to get better quality sleep.
Changes you can make to improve your sleep hygiene include:
- going to bed at the same time every night – this will help set your biological clock so you start to feel drowsy at bedtime
- creating your own bedtime ritual, eg, writing down the things on your mind that are worrying you or that you need to do tomorrow, making a hot, milky drink or taking a warm bath – start your ritual at the same time each night
- reducing or avoiding caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol, especially in the evenings
- avoiding large meals late in the evening – but don’t go to bed hungry (have a late snack if you need to)
- exercising outdoors early or in the middle of the day (but not too close to your bedtime)
- avoiding TV, computer screens and mobile phones for an hour or two before bed, as the artificial light interferes with your natural cues to sleep
- unwinding before bed by reading or listening to music
- not using your bed for work or catching up on social media
- making sure your bedroom is cool, dimly lit or dark and as quiet and comfortable for sleep as possible
- turning around any bedroom clocks – clock-watching makes insomnia worse
- using mindfulness or relaxation techniques.
Read more tips to improve your sleeping habits.
Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTi)
A type of short-term counselling called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you to improve your sleep by teaching you how to manage anxiety and negative thoughts that keep you awake. A special form of CBT that focuses on insomnia, called CBTi, helps you learn how to calm your mind when you’re trying to sleep. CBT can be done by your doctor, a sleep therapist or through online CBT programmes.
Online programmes include:
There are a variety of sleep apps available for use on your smartphone or tablet that can be helpful if you have insomnia. Some apps track your sleep habits, similar to a sleep diary, to help you develop good sleep routines. Other apps help you to fall asleep by using calming visual graphics and relaxing music.
Medicines for sleep
Medicines for managing sleep problems are usually only considered when lifestyle changes (sleep hygiene) or CBTi have been unsuccessful. Medicines for sleep problems may be effective in the short term but there is no evidence of long-term efficacy or safety. Medicines used to help your sleeping may also be addictive.
Medicines that are used for insomnia include:
Other supplements are also used for insomnia, but the evidence that these are effective is either limited or does not exist. If you have been prescribed medicines for sleep, your doctor will talk to you about your safety to drive(external link), as some of these medicines can have side effects. Read more about medicines for sleep problems.
Talk to your doctor to find out the best treatment option for you.