Insomnia, or difficulty sleeping, affects many people at various times in their lives. This can be caused by pain, stress, hormones, caffeine, over-stimulation, improper “sleep hygiene”, medications, and other issues. Regular chiropractic care may help people who suffer from short-term or long-term insomnia.
Types and Causes of Insomnia
Insomnia can be described as difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep, or problems staying asleep. It can occur in anyone, at any age, but it is most common in the elderly. The poor quality of sleep can lead to impairment during waking hours. “Transient insomnia” is a short-term problem (less than a week), which is often caused by depression, stress, poor sleep timing, or a change in the sleep environment. “Acute insomnia”, which persists for less than a month, can include poor sleep quality, and it can also be caused by stress. “Chronic insomnia” lasts more than a month, and it can also be caused by stress or other disorders. This can lead to hallucinations and muscular fatigue –far more serious than daytime sleepiness. Caffeine and other medications, Restless Legs Syndrome, pain, hormone shifts (such as menstruation and menopause), life stressors, jet lag and “swing shifts” at work, and even exercise can cause insomnia.1
Typically, when the insomnia has proven to cause enough discomfort, a patient will seek some form of help. Doctors will try to identify the cause and determine if it is medical or psychiatric in nature. Some of the treatments will be non-pharmacologic, while others will be medical in nature.2 Doctors may encourage proper “sleep hygiene”, which include sleeping enough (but not too much), exercising daily 4-5 hours before bed, keeping a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes, adjusting the sleep environment, decreasing stress, and avoiding stimulating activities in the bedroom.3 There are also medications that may be prescribed; however, even traditional medical doctors note that medications work best with the behavioral changes. Sedatives can be addictive, and they can have serious side-effects. Some of the prescriptions include benzodiazepines, nonbenzodiazepines, Ramelteon (which stimulates melatonin receptors), antidepressants, and even over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines (i.e., Benedryl), melatonin, and herbal remedies (i.e., Valerian).4
Chiropractors will, like many medical doctors, encourage prevention of insomnia by advocating proper “sleep hygiene”. Patients may prefer not to take habit-forming medications, and they may not be comfortable with side-effects of the pills. For these patients, chiropractors may recommend natural products, such as melatonin, and chiropractic adjustments. “In a recent study of 221 chiropractic patients…98% recorded improved results with chiropractic versus those whose sleep patterns did not get better”.5 Chiropractors may also recommend an ergonomic pillow, a better mattress, avoiding “blue light” in the bedroom (from cell phones and televisions, for example) which affects melatonin, reducing distractions, and keeping the bedroom cool (between 67-72 degrees F).6 Regular chiropractic adjustments can also keep the body in proper alignment, which can reduce pain and lead to a more comfortable night’s rest.