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Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which one has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting quality sleep. According to a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, one in four Americans develop insomnia each year, but fortunately, about 75% of these individuals recover without developing persistent insomnia while the other 25% progress to acute insomnia.



People over the age of 60 tend to experience sleep disturbances more often than younger people. Females are also twice as likely to have sleep problems compared to males. There are a multitude of possible causes for insomnia, including:

  • emotional stress,
  • mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety,
  • chronic pain,
  • allergies,
  • asthma,
  • heart failure,
  • hyperthyroidism,
  • heartburn,
  • menopause,
  • restless leg syndrome,
  • circadian rhythm disruptions, such as jet lag or working night shifts,
  • sleep apnea,
  • certain medications,
  • caffeine,
  • heavy smoking, and
  • excessive alcohol intake.
Insomnia is agonizing, exhausting, and frustrating. Some people turn to sleeping pills, either over-the-counter or prescription, which may help improve sleep while you are taking them. But insomnia usually returns once they are stopped because medications do not treat the underlying causes of insomnia.

Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone that is sold as a supplement. It is helpful for occasional sleep problems and jet lag. Individuals who report that melatonin does not work often make the mistake of taking too high a dose of several grams. Very often, as little as 300 mcg is already sufficient. Always start with the lowest dose before increasing the dosage. It is also beneficial to get the "timed release" melatonin as it will help you stay asleep longer. However, melatonin also does not address the underlying causes of insomnia.

A more successful approach to insomnia is to improve sleep hygiene and make lifestyle changes in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. Dozens of studies have proved that this strategy is extremely helpful in treating insomnia. In the following, we will examine these techniques in more detail.

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