Treating Insomnia – Do OTC Meds Work?

Natural methods in curing insomnia are always preferred but upon a doctors approval the following over the counter medicines are formulated to stimulate sleep.

Diphenhydramine (Excedrin, Nytol, Sominex)
Doxylamine (Unisom)

The following on the other hand are medications that need to have doctors prescription to avail:

    Zolpidem (Ambien)
    Zaleplon (Sonata)
    Flurazepam (Dalmane)
    Estazolam (ProSom)
    Temazepam (Restori)
    Triazolam (Halcion)

Although these medicines are chemicals that trigger sleep, long periods of usage lessens its effectiveness.

Insomnia in Infants and Children

Usually, people suffering from insomnia blame this on too much stress, worries, depression and a very worrisome life.

People mostly believe that these feelings cannot be experienced by infants and children because they are too young to worry about anything. Based on this reasoning, some people think that insomnia would not occur in children. But this is not true. Just like adults, insomnia can also happen to children and infants.

Children have different sleeping habits and time patterns. For infants who are one week old, the average length of sleep per day is 16 hours. There are parents that believe that babies who sleep less are geniuses or have a high I.Q. But there is no scientific evidence to support this belief. Babies usually wake once every evening at the minimum. Unless breast fed, infants can go back to sleep on their own.

Insomnia or sleeping disorders can be defined in the following parameters:

• Having a hard time to sleep at night
• A person who wakes up very early
• A person who wakes up often at night

This ailment can cause the feeling of tiredness and drowsiness even after waking up in the morning. A person with insomnia also has a hard time concentrating.

Diagnosis of Sleeping Disorders

To check if a person has a sleeping disorder, a diagnosis is made by a physician specially trained in sleep medicine. After a physical examination of the upper airway and an interview with lots of questions, if it the tests have determined that the patient has a sleeping disorder, one will have to undergo a polysomnogram (sleep test).

Most sleep centers and labs monitor 16 different sleep parameters including EEG, EKG, eye movement, chin movement, air flow, chest effort, abdomen effort, SaO2, snoring and leg movement. Each parameter serves to help the physician make a correct diagnosis.

Test are conducted in a sleep room much like a motel room. A technician will paste electrodes at certain points on your head, face, body and legs. Those electrodes will be hooked to monitoring equipment that will record the entire night study. Most patients do not experience anxiety or difficulty in going to sleep. The patients in most case are extremely sleepy and will be asleep in just a few minutes.

Once a correct diagnosis has been made, the doctor may recommend a variety of

Sleep Apnea Treatments

Types of treatments for sleep apnea include;

1. Behavioral Therapy. Is usually all that is needed for a mild case. It changes the person behavior towards the use of alcohol, tobacco which affects the airway. For an obese person, the therapy also includes weight loss program. Overweight persons can benefit from losing weight. Even a small amount of weight loss will lower the frequency of apnea in majority of patients.

2. Physical or Mechanical Therapy. Here is one of the most effective ways of treating sleep apnea. During the therapy, the patient wears a mask on his nose during sleep while applying air pressure to the nasal passages. The therapy provides air pressure to keep the airway from narrowing.

3. Surgery for adults. Surgery is considered only when other alternative therapy failed or if the patient volunteered to. Surgery aims to remove unnecessary tissue build-up in the throat to open up the airway.

The best cure to sleep apnea is prevention. There are several ways to prevent one from having to develop sleep apnea and reduce the frequency of the attacks:

1. Many Sleep apnea patients are obese. Maintaining a healthy weight is a sure way to prevent the frequency of apnea episodes since it increases the volume of oxygen in the blood. Studies showed that a 10 percent decrease in weight would reduce the frequency of apnea episodes up to 26 percent.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea makes an active person feel sleepy in the morning and affects their concentration in work. Severe sleep apnea could lead to depression, memory loses, irritability, and other negative socio-psychological conditions. Sleep apnea could increase the risk of having a heart attack, high blood pressure and even stroke. One should suspect having a sleep apnea disorder when the following conditions occur:

1. Heavy snoring during sleep while struggling to breath. This is usually monitored by the spouse or room mate.

2. Co-workers noticing one’s lack of concentration at work and falling to sleep frequently.

3. Headaches upon waking up from sleep.

4. Frequent urination at night.

5. Heartburn during the night.

6. Frequent changing in sleep position restlessly.

7. Night time choking episodes.

Detecting sleep apnea is a collaborative effort among your family physician, neurologist, and pulmonologist. Among the tests for diagnosing person with such disorder are Polysommography and The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). Polysomnography monitors different functions of the body during sleep such as brain activity, movement of the eye, movement of the muscles, heart beating, blood oxygen. The test will also determine whether the condition is moderate or severe. The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) measures how fast the individual fall into sleep. Normal people fall into sleep in 10 to 20 minutes on the average while people with sleep apnea disorder fall into sleep in 5 minutes or less. Additionally, MSLT is use to measure the daytime sleepiness of the person.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a health condition far more serious than what most would think of. Sleep apnea is a health condition that happens when one’s breathing during sleep stop for a while, usually 10 seconds or even longer. Sleep apnea could happen 5 to 45 times per hour.

Sleep apnea is usually associated with choking sensations and often leads to headaches and sleepiness during the day. Its moderateness or severity is measured with respect to the frequency of episodes per hour, whether you have no breathing (apnea) or slower breathing (hyponea).

Mostly in Males

Forms of Circadian Rhythms Syndrome/Disorders

Circadian Rhythm defects can come many distinct forms depending on the amount and timing of waking up and sleeping. Others, as in the case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), result in the changes in the length of day and night.

People who tend to sleep at a later time of the day and wake up late as well are said to be exhibiting Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). These people tend to develop insomnia, an abnormal inability to take adequate amount of sleep due to not being able to sleep at the right time of the night.

Still, other people, especially the elderly, are more likely to sleep early around 7:00 PM and consequently wake up early around 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM. This is a symptom of disrupted natural biological rhythms known as Familial Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome (FASPS).

The amount of a substance called melatonin is also perceived as a motivating factor in sleep-related disorders in humans. In a study among vertebrate mammals, melatonin is secreted in response to the absence of light.

This means more melatonin is secreted in the period of darkness and less in the presence of light.

Eyes, Light and Circadian Rhythms

Light and temperature provides the determining factor by which the body responds to the >24-hour activity periodsuprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus.

In complex animals like humans, the hypothalamus forms part of the autonomous nervous system which in part, controls the functions of organs that are not voluntarily controlled, hence involuntary. Involuntary, meaning, they are not governed by conscious will to act. These include breathing, heart beat and intestinal digestion.

One interesting point to make is that the location of SCN is just above the optic chiasma (cross). The optic chiasma can be described as a location where optic nerve fibers meet and cross (chiasma-cross).

It is fitting to say that, the perception of light through the opening in the eyes, triggers the wake/sleep patterns in humans since this is one way the organism receives such physical message.