Thursday, September 16, 2010
ROCHESTER, Minn. — When a good night's sleep is elusive, some sleuthing might be necessary to find a solution. But most sleep difficulties are treatable and addressing them often results in a better night's sleep.
The September issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter includes an eight-page Special Report on Sleeping Well. Some highlights include:
Sleep isn't a luxury: Restful sleep is just as important to health as adequate nutrition and exercise. Sleep is necessary to think clearly. Studies have shown that being well rested improves the body's response to infection. Evidence suggests that brains are hard at work during sleep, possibly forming the pathways necessary for learning, making new memories and insights, and coming up with creative solutions to problems. Inadequate sleep is linked to depression and irritability as well as diabetes, weight problems and cravings for high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods.
Sleep problems often can be treated: There's a wide range of ways to address sleep problems, from eliminating naps to treating underlying illnesses. In fact, sleep problems often can be traced to treatable health issues. Examples include poor pain control, frequent nighttime urination, or illnesses that cause coughing or shortness of breath.
Medications may be used to treat insomnia, but most sleep aids are meant to be taken for a short time. They can lead to dependence or the effects can wear off. Behavior therapies, such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), also are helpful. CBT aims to replace negative thinking about sleep with more realistic, positive thinking. Studies have found that the long-term effectiveness of CBT is at least equal to medications alone and with no side effects.
Insomnia and depression often go hand in hand: Many people develop insomnia prior to being depressed. Studies show that unresolved insomnia increases the risk of depression. It's not clear if one causes the other, but each can worsen if untreated.
Advising a physician about both insomnia and depression symptoms is important before determining a treatment plan. A sedating antidepressant, such as trazodone (Desyrel), is often used to treat insomnia and could help with depression, too. Other antidepressants may have stimulating properties and make insomnia worse.
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