Developing a routine that triggers sleepiness is the best way to deal with insomnia, clinical psychiatrists said on Saturday during a seminar held by the Taiwan Society of Sleep Medicine on chronic insomnia.
Taoyuan Chang Gung Medical Hospital Sleep Center doctor Wu Chia-shuo (吳家碩) said one in every 10 people in Taiwan suffers from chronic insomnia, adding that treatment in Taiwan is still mostly centered around medicine, which does not address the root of the problem.
While hypnotics or sleeping pills can put the brain into resting mode and aid sleep, there are many side effects: The body could become dependent on the drug or build up a tolerance to it, he said.
Sleeping pills put the brain into sleeping mode, but the body does not receive the same orders, which might result in sleepwalking, Wu said, adding that in one case, a patient got up to cook and eat after falling asleep while on pills.
Doctors around the world are beginning to introduce their patients to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) rather than prescribe medication, because it achieves the same effects in the early stages and outperforms drugs in the long term, he said.
This method of treatment also cuts down on a patient’s dependency on drugs, Wu added.
CBT aims to change insomniacs’ behavior and concept of sleep, he said.
Insomniacs often have rigid ideas regarding sleep, for example that they must fall sleep before 11pm, but they often work or use cellphones before going to bed, Wu said, adding that these habits can cause presleep anxiety and do not allow the body to relax.
Different groups have different reasons for not being able to sleep, he said, adding that students often suffer from insomnia at the beginning of semesters because their schedule is different from when they were on vacation.
Workers often cannot sleep because of stress from work, while the elderly suffer from insomnia due to not being active enough or sleeping during the day, he said.
To prevent insomnia, Wu said individuals should develop a personal routine, such as taking a shower before bed or keeping a journal in which they write about their day’s worries, that tells their body when it is time to sleep.
Another method is finding time to relax, whether it be by practicing yoga, doing stress-relieving activities or listening to music, Wu said, adding that if an individual is relaxed they should be able to fall asleep more easily.
Wu also said that people should avoid working, using their cellphones or watching television when in bed, allowing beds to remain a place for sleep only.
Should individuals have trouble sleeping after lying in bed for 30 minutes, if they wake up during the night on a weekly basis, or if they wake up early three times in a row for three consecutive months, they should visit their nearest clinic or hospital before their sleep pattern becomes a vicious cycle, he said.