Last updated on October 12th, 2022 at 09:42 am
Sleep is the holy grail of health. It aids the mechanisms of cellular metabolic homeostasis, which is responsible for cell rejuvenation. That said, poor sleep does the complete opposite. Sleep deprivation gnaws away at your physical and mental health, daytime performance, and creativity.
Yet, did you know that 40% of Americans get less than 6 hours of sleep a night? 
Insomnia is no fun at all. Yet when it gets chronic (and it does for 10-15% of the American population ), it gets soul-wrenching. And yet, for many people, treating insomnia is like bumping into a closed door everywhere they turn.
Why is this so, and what’s the remedy—especially if you’ve got chronic insomnia? Which insomnia treatments work and which don’t?
When you look at what online sources say, it seems like anything can work. So, we’ve looked at relevant authority sources to help you separate the good from the bad.
Today we unwrap the whole business of treating insomnia the right way. The devil’s in the details so let’s break it down one step at a time.
1 – Prescription Sleeping Pills (MYTH)
If you still haven’t found sleep medicine that works for you, it may not be down to a poor choice but down to a common denominator related to all prescription sleeping pills.
Namely, sleeping pills can bring immediate relief and give you a decent night’s rest, but they don’t work in the long run.
It’s a common misconception that sleeping pills can treat chronic insomnia disorder. While they can bring you much-needed sleep eight to twenty minutes faster than without medications, they come with risks.
That’s why popping a pill is generally recommended for short-term use only. You should resort to it for no longer than a few weeks. 
Taking prescription sleep medication can interfere with your waking life and disrupt your daily
routine. The adverse effects include drowsiness, muddled thinking, and dizziness.
We expand this list in the table below, linking each adverse effect to the type of sleep aid, as listed on Harvard Medical School’s website. 
Prescription Sleep Aids—How They Work Plus Adverse Effects
|Type of Prescription Drug
|Melatonin-receptor agonists (Rozerem) are quickly absorbed. They affect sleep patterns by targeting melatonin receptors in the brain, and they’re not habit-forming.
|Benzodiazepines (Ativan, Restoril) induce sleep by activating the brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
However, plenty of side effects have been linked to this drug, including the risk of falling, and the risk of developing dementia. It can also worsen your sleep problems when you try weaning off the drug—a condition known as rebound insomnia—where your symptoms come back worse than before.
|Nonbenzodiazepines (Ambien, Lunesta) also treat sleep disorders by targeting GABA. They’re not as hard on your body as benzodiazepines because they don’t last as long in your body. That said, their side effects are limited to sleepwalking and daytime sleepiness.
2 – Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids (MYTH)
Many people rely on over-the-counter medications (OTCs), believing they will improve their sleep quality. The problem is that OTCs are widely considered to be safer than prescription medications as they’re not as strong.
But this is another misconception. Over-the-counter sleep medicines will likely help you fall asleep, but they’re not a long-term solution to your problems.
Quick Tip: You can try melatonin sleep aids now OTC.
Most sleep aids use an active ingredient (antihistamine) to target your histamine receptor, which regulates wakefulness.
While they can get you into the mood for sleep right before bed, it can take a long time before you get them out of your system. As a result, you can feel groggy and hungover the following day.
Note: Over-the-counter sleep medications are not harmless—they may carry many risks that prescription-only medications have. Also, their effectiveness is uncertain and based on little to no evidence.
“The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in 2017 officially recommended against treating chronic insomnia with common over-the-counter antihistamine and analgesic sleep aids as well as herbal and nutritional substances, such as valerian and melatonin, because there is not enough evidence that they are effective or safe. And there are definite concerns about their risks.” 
3 – An Exercise Regimen (TRUTH)
An exercise regimen can give you a better night’s sleep. But can you expect a dramatic effect, and does it work for treating chronic insomnia? What does the research say?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise can give you an effect similar to sleeping pills—without the adverse effects. 
Moreover, a 2013 study confirmed regular exercise can improve sleep quality.
The study examined 11 women with sleep disorders and was conducted to test whether an exercise regimen would promote a good night’s rest. After 4 months of regular exercise, the women reported improvement in their insomnia treatment. 
But is there too much of a good thing? Data suggests that even vigorous exercise won’t disturb your sleep. Often, the opposite is true—people tend to sleep better after late workout sessions.
Just remember not to go bonkers with your workout immediately before going to sleep.
4 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TRUTH)
Cognitive behavioral therapy might be helpful if you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked. Unlike sleeping pills, behavioral interventions seek to address the root cause of a person’s sleep difficulties.
As Harvard Medical School’s website reported, cognitive behavioral therapy may have long-term beneficial effects on your sleep quality. 
This boils down to one-on-one counseling work, where a therapist helps you change negative thought patterns that disturb sleep and swaps them for more beneficial ones. These practices may be counterintuitive, so they’re best applied under professional supervision.
There’s a whole slew of strategies and techniques that come under the umbrella of cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s a long and boring story you don’t want to know. To put it short, we’ll list a few of them.
- Sleep restriction. This technique involves temporarily restricting your sleep time to adopt good sleep habits in the long run. You’re asked to limit your time in bed and to cut down on your nap time, so you’re more tired the next night. The idea is to activate your natural need for sleep. Once your sleep difficulties have subsided, your time in bed gradually reverts to normal.
- Stimulus control therapy. Negative thought patterns associated with bedtime can worsen sleep problems in people living with insomnia. Stimulus control therapy steps in to help patients break this negative cycle and reset their minds to a more positive outlook on sleep.
For example, some exercises include leaving your bed if you don’t fall asleep within a 20-minute window or only using your bed for sleep and sex.
- Light therapy. If your sleep disorder includes falling asleep and waking up too early, light therapy might be recommended. It aims to reprogram a person’s internal clock by exposing them to natural light outdoors or a specialized medical-grade light box.
5 – Glutathione Supplements for Sleep Disorders (TRUTH)
Glutathione supplements may help you catch up on a good night’s sleep and tackle your sleep problems. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant, a tripeptide molecule made up of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamate, and glycine.
Now get this: studies have found that glutathione promotes sound sleep. Not only that, but when you sleep better, the levels of glutathione in your body naturally shoot up.
One study found that glutathione can improve rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep in freely behaving rats. The same study concluded that intracerebroventricular (icv) infusion of glutathione induces sleep in rabbits and mice. 
The study further investigates which form of glutathione, GSH or GSSG, carries a somnogenic effect. Conclusively, the researchers underscore that the conversion of GSH to GSSG creates a sleep-inducing effect.
N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is a dietary supplement that replenishes intracellular glutathione levels. As such, it may be a go-to sleep aid for more restful sleep.
Therapeutic effects of NAC also hold promise in the treatment of people with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS).
One study found that NAC relieves sleep difficulties in patients suffering from OSAS. It improved sleep efficiency, reduced the number of snore episodes, and helped reduce the patient’s dependency on continuous positive airway pressure therapy. 
Care to learn more about N-Acetylcysteine? Check out our comprehensive article on the topic.
Find Your Way Out of Chronic Insomnia
Sleep deprivation can take a toll on your physical and mental health, and yet so many people don’t get the right therapy. So, there you go—a few insomnia treatments that work and a few absolute myths unveiled for you.
Sleeping pills are one of many options. Behavioral therapy for insomnia, sleep hygiene, and other less-known approaches can help you move the needle and get that extra shuteye.
Sleep over it (hopefully not for too long, we wouldn’t want to steal away from your sleep time) and choose your option.
Staying healthy means staying in the know. Do you want to learn more about treating sleep disorders and improving your overall health? Head to our blog pages or write us a question in the comment box.
Simply Nutrients is a doctor-owned premier provider of nutritional and wellness products, and we’re here to support you on your health journey every step of the way.
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