About 60 million Americans a year struggle with insomnia. Now a new sleep study is trying to figure out the best treatment for people who can't fall asleep or stay asleep.
It's an important health issue because p
revious studies show that insomnia can play a role in high blood pressure and heart disease.
Amy Hopkins has had years of sleepless nights.
"It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 to 3 hours to fall asleep," says Hopkins. "I will just lie in bed and toss and turn and once I do fall asleep I tend to wake up a lot."
The mother of two has insomnia she's taking part in a study at
National Jewish Health in Denver
that is testing which insomnia treatments are best. Some patients have talk therapy to break bad habits such as using electronics before bed or not sticking to a sleep schedule.
Dr. Jack Edinger describes one problem, "If they had a poor night they will actually sleep in in the morning and that keeps their biological clock off rhythm."
Some patients received sleep medication. The study will enroll about 220 patients over the next two years.
"We hope the study will contribute to some clinical guidelines," says Edinger, "that will help other providers learn how to better manage insomnia patients and what to do first and what to do second."
Amy tried behavior therapy first, then took sleep medication for six months. "The study helped me. I still have a lot of poor nights sleep but I have had fewer poor nights of sleep."
She still takes Ambien once a week, but hopes the skills she learned in therapy will eventually be enough to get a good nights rest.
In addition to talk therapy and medication, there are other things you can do to help increase your chance of getting a good night's sleep. Doctor's call it good sleep hygeine.
The National Sleep Foundation offers these tips.
Try, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, avoid napping during the day and caffeine before bedtime.
Don't eat before bed, and don't watch TV or read in bed.
Exercise and get enough exposure to natural light, that will help your body get back into a healthy sleep wake schedule.