Recent research on treating Insomnia
This won’t be an extensive thesis on all of the ways of treating insomnia, instead it is a short overview of research that has caught my eye recently.
First of all I saw two articles this week that emphasized the problem of insomnia in the community, specifically in UAE residents and in the US military. You couldn’t find two more different communities if you tried, so these two articles clearly demonstrate that insomnia crosses all barriers, regardless of employment, location or culture.
Insomnia in UAE residents
The London Sleep Centre in Dubai have recently said that around a fifth of their patients suffer from disrupted sleep patterns due to what they term as ‘noise pollution’. The most common sleep problems they have found in their clinic are ‘sleep initiation insomnia’ and ‘sleep maintenance insomnia’.
Sleep initiation insomnia: This is where people have problems falling asleep.
Sleep maintenance insomnia: This is where falling asleep is not the problem, but staying asleep is problematical with patients waking frequently.
Apparently, these two forms of insomnia can easily be the result of living in a busy city, such as Dubai where 24/7 noise is an ongoing problem.
Noise pollution is apparently a big contributor to insomnia in cities, leading to a lack of judgement, depression and an inability to retain information in the short term.
In the longer term, chronic insomnia can lead to diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular problems.
A lack of sleep due to noise pollution leads to an increased level of stress, which is a significant contributor to the stress levels of people living in cities and of course, the cycle continues.
There are not many solutions for treating insomnia due to noise pollution, so you either have to move to a less noisy environment or try and block out the noise pollution with a white noise machine or one that plays natural sounds.
Insomnia in the US military
A recent article in the Medical Xpress I found interesting because they talked about a new study that focused on military personnel who suffered from insomnia.
They used ‘resilience’ as a measure of the effects of insomnia on military personnel, which was a combined score based on their general health, number of sick days, whether they were deployed or not, whether they completed their term of service and how often they accessed the health services.
Amongst their results, they found that military people who slept poorly were less likely to be deployed and more likely to leave the military, before their terms of service were completed.
Searching the internet I have found a few more articles on insomnia in the military. One found a high prevalence of sleep disorders in military personal, particularly in short sleep duration among active duty personnel. Another article found that post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is linked to pre-existing insomnia after military deployment.
The result of all these studies is that treating insomnia in military personnel, particularly in those that have been deployed, will help to reduce other health issues, such as depression and PTSD.
Treating insomnia with medications
It appears that a lot of solutions for treating insomnia are based on antidepressants, which is not one of the approved reasons for prescribing this medication.
This finding was the result of a study into the increase in antidepressant prescriptions in Canada from 2006 to 2015, which found that nearly half of all prescriptions of antidepressants were given to treat insomnia, anxiety or pain.
Also this year, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine recommended that the first port of call for treating chronic insomnia in adult people is to undergo cognitive behavioral therapy and to only offer pharmacological therapy (medicines) if this cognitive therapy did not work.
Their rationale was quite reasonable, in that cognitive therapy does not have the potential for serious adverse effects that some medications possess.
In fact , another study has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy, delivered by telephone, significantly improves insomnia over the long term in peri- and postmenopausal women, whilst medications were more short term fixes.
Other treatments for insomnia in the news recently
Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation: An article on deep pressure touch stimulation (DPTS) caught my eye as this is akin to massage, firm touching or swaddling, which provides both the physical and psychological benefits of comfort. This insomnia treatment is based on the idea of swaddling your body in weighted blankets to stimulate relaxation that results in sleeping better.
Weighted blankets are the suggested tool to use, which is not a new idea because swaddling babies is an age old technique to help them settle and go to sleep. Apparently, the swaddling of babies or the use of weighted blankets in adults encourages the release of serotonin, which results in an increase in melatonin that we know helps us to relax.
New molecules reset your circadian rhythm: Scientists in japan have designed new molecules that change your circadian rhythm, which might eventually help shift workers and those suffering from jet lag to sleep better.
The synthesized molecules work directly on one of the the proteins that regulates sleep and might be an effective way of treating insomnia. Whilst it is still early days, we might be able to customize our body clock to suit our work and lifestyles in the future.
How can sleep sound machines help you sleep better?
If you have problems falling asleep (sleep initiation insomnia) or trouble staying asleep (maintenance insomnia) and this is due to noise pollution in your environment, then a sleep sound machine might be the solution.
This is because a sound machine that plays either white noise or natural sounds will help to mask the noise pollution and give you a chance to relax and fall asleep. When you continue to play the sound machine during your sleep cycle, they will also block out any noises that tend to wake you up frequently, helping to improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep.
As a way of treating insomnia that does not involve medications or expensive therapy, a sleep sound machine is a viable option for many people.