There are few things more frustrating than lying in bed at night, waiting for sleep. And waiting. And waiting. Thousands of Americans experience episodes of insomnia. For some, the problem comes and goes periodically. Others rarely experience a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep.
“Women tend to experience and report more complaints of insomnia, while men more often experience obstructive sleep apnea,” explains Angie Randazzo, Ph.D., a psychologist who owns Slumber Solutions, which specializes in behavioral treatment of sleep disorders. “However, these are statistical reports,” she adds, “and both genders definitely can experience either.”
For women, insomnia can be related to hormonal imbalances, and it becomes more common with age. Randazzo notes that insomnia is often related to illness, medication, chronic pain or psychological disorders, such as depression.
“The gold-standard treatment for insomnia, as determined by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, is cognitive behavioral therapy,” she says. Using these therapeutic techniques, Randazzo helps clients learn how to associate going to bed with falling asleep. She customizes the treatment plan to the client’s circumstances and may include relaxation exercises, temporary sleep rescheduling, creating specific bedtime routines, and restricting time in bed to consolidate sleep.
“Often, once patients learn these techniques, they are empowered to manage their insomnia independently if it recurs,” she says. “However, most individuals do not experience relapse once they have learned and successfully implemented the techniques.”
Taking a slightly different approach, Joan Krueger, a certified hypnotist with the Hypnosis Center, teaches clients to “occupy the conscious part of their mind by counting backward from 100. With every number that they try to think of, they continue to get drowsier until they drift into a deep, sound, restful sleep.”
Other hypnosis clients may respond well to “putting away those distracting thoughts until morning,” she says. “The mind knows how to function, but sometimes we get in the habit of not functioning in the proper way.” Krueger also teaches relaxation techniques to help clients fall asleep and stay asleep.
Hypnosis may be effective after a single session or may require several sessions, she notes. “We are working with the human mind, and each person’s mind is different,” Krueger says. “I tell my clients to see what they experience, and we work together on an individual basis, depending on their needs.”
Elizabeth Bagley, D.C., a chiropractor with Vital Force Upper Cervical Clinic, finds that many of her patients complain of insomnia as a secondary problem associated with back or neck pain or headaches. Treating the insomnia is important because “people heal best at night when getting a restful sleep,” she says.
Bagley’s approach, known as upper cervical chiropractic, focuses only on the top two vertebrae, which surround the brain stem and allow us to turn our heads. The emphasis is on maintaining head and neck alignment to ensure there is no stress on the brain stem and the nervous system functions properly. Improved sleep is usually one of the many benefits of proper alignment, Bagley says.
Whether you approach insomnia relief through cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, upper cervical chiropractic care or other types of treatments, seek help. Healthy sleep is part of a healthy life.