New guideline for sleeping pills may change doctors' prescribing habits

Sleeping Pills: New Prescribing Guidelines

Let’s say you go to the doctor hoping to get a prescription for sleeping pills to relieve your insomnia. You’ve been through cognitive behavioral therapy and it has helped. But there are nights when you’re wound up so tightly that nothing—push-ups, meditation, a hot bath—will calm you down enough so you can get a decent night’s sleep. What then?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently released a clinical practice guideline for the medical treatment of chronic insomnia in adults. Here’s what the academy now recommends.

Insomnia sufferers should eat high-fiber foods for stress protection and better sleep

Prebiotics Improve Stress Resilience and Sleep

Is stress the driver of your insomnia? Eating more high-fiber foods—sometimes called prebiotics (different from probiotics)—may help both your stomach and your sleep.

In a new study on rats conducted at the University of Colorado, a high-fiber diet promoted the growth of healthy gut bacteria, increased resilience to stress, and made sleep more robust following a stressful event. Here are the take-aways and what the study suggests about human sleep.

Observing sleep hygiene can hold insomnia at bay

Sleep Hygiene May Keep You From Backsliding

Observing the rules of good sleep hygiene may not work as a standalone treatment for insomnia. But now that I’ve learned to manage my insomnia, I follow most of the rules because they help me maintain sounder, more regular sleep.

Some are especially helpful in preventing backsliding. They may help you, too.

Melatonin ineffective for insomnia but effective for other sleep problems

Sleep and Health Benefits of Melatonin

As a treatment for chronic insomnia, melatonin supplements disappoint. Internal secretion of melatonin, the hormone of darkness, begins to rise some two hours before you fall asleep. Adding to it with a melatonin supplement is often redundant.

But there’s increasing evidence that melatonin supplementation is effective for some sleep problems and may also help to treat and/or avert serious health conditions. Here’s a summary of the benefits.

Chronic insomnia and depression are linked and presaged by poor quality sleep and sadness

Get Help for Sadness and Poor Quality Sleep

About 44% of people with insomnia also have a mental illness such as depression or generalized anxiety. So it’s no surprise that in healthy female college students there’s a relationship between sleep and mood, or affect.

But just what that relationship is—and how normal variations in sleep and affect might morph into insomnia and/or a mood disorder—hasn’t been established. Here’s what researchers at Kent State University and Henry Ford Hospital have found out.

Relieve fear of sleeplessness with cognitive and behavioral therapies.

Q&A: Anxious About Sleep? Get Relief

Anxiety about sleep is a problem for some insomnia sufferers. Fear of sleeplessness is the main thing keeping them awake at night.

Here’s how sleep anxiety develops and how to tone it down.

Stress-related insomnia may respond to treatment with a beta blocker

A Beta Blocker for Stress-Related Insomnia

Is your insomnia linked to stress? When you go to bed at night, are you suddenly aware of your heart beat, muscle tension, and bodily warmth?

A drug now in the pipeline may one day be available to treat stress-related insomnia—if it measures up to its developers’ expectations.

early morning awakening can be avoided by postponing sleep

Relief From Early Morning Insomnia

It may be true that the early bird gets the worm. But there’s no advantage to waking up before the birds—or so I’m told by insomnia sufferers who routinely wake up at 2:30 or 3 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep. It’s depressing to wake up too early night after night.

Here’s why early morning insomnia occurs and how to get your sleep cycle more in sync with daylight and darkness.