Sleep difficulties can generally be divided into four types: difficulty falling asleep, interrupted sleep or difficulty staying asleep, premature awakening in the early morning and unwanted daytime sleep. The “cure” for the problem should be based on the cause – and more than one cause is the norm rather than the exception. Most often, sleep difficulties are indicators of mental health problems – but not always.
Causes of sleep problems can range widely. Common causes include: un-diagnosed mood disorders, mis-treated mood disorders, extreme stress, substance abuse, too much coffee or alcohol, prescribed or over-the-counter medications, medication interactions, sleep apnea and disturbed circadian (when one sleeps / when one is awake) rhythm. There are many more possible causes and it is important to get an expert assessment of the problem - rather than simply suppress the “symptom”.
It is a bad idea to use melatonin, the advice from the National Institute of Health is that we don’t really know what it does – so it’s best not to use. Similarly, using alcohol, “pot” or diphenhydramine (Sominex ®, Benadryl ®, Nyquil®, others) – or even prescription sleep aids – is ill advised. The exception might be the night before a severely stressful event: tax audit, major surgery, court appearance, etc.
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