Behavioral Changes As Effective As Medication In Treating Insomnia
New Comprehensive Insomnia Clinic emphasizes yoga and meditation to tackle insomnia
If you’ve ever lain in bed for hours, tossing and turning and willing yourself to sleep, then woke up feeling exhausted the next morning, you’ve experienced the frustration of insomnia. Many people accept difficulty sleeping as a way of life, but it’s important to know that insomnia is a real medical issue that can be treated. Behavioral and lifestyle changes, in addition to medication are proven methods to treat insomnia. Relaxation techniques that help reduce stress can also be used to help people with insomnia feel more relaxed and sleep better. Experts at Northwestern Memorial’s Sleep Disorders Center recently launched the Comprehensive Insomnia Clinic to offer patients a chance to have comprehensive treatment for insomnia.
Two key issues prompted insomnia expert Ramadevi Gourineni, MD, to create the clinic. “I kept hearing from my patients that they felt dismissed by their physicians for complaining of sleep problems, and when physicians did offer help, it was always in the form of medication,” said Gourineni, director of the Comprehensive Insomnia Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “We want to spread the message to patients and physicians that there is help, and that simple lifestyle changes can replace the need for medications to achieve a better night’s sleep.”
During the initial visit, Gourineni and Kelly Baron, PhD, behavioral sleep specialist both meet with patients for a 45-minute comprehensive evaluation. Together they determine if there are any underlying medical problems, psychiatric illness or primary sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, that that may be contributing to the sleep difficulty. Patients also screening or more formal evaluation to rule out problems such as depression, when indicated
The physicians’ priority is to educate patients about behavioral changes they can make that will help them sleep. Examples of behavioral changes are kicking bad habits such as consuming caffeine before bedtime and not using the bedroom for work or watching TV. They also counsel patients on stress management techniques and to reduce the worry and anxiety that often keeps people awake at night.
A unique aspect of the clinic is the physicians’ emphasis on meditation and other relaxation methods to help with stress, lifestyle balance and sleep. Patients are educated about the different types of relaxation techniques and are directed to select one that may be good for them.
“This does require some level of commitment by the patient, and patients have to have the desire to change their behavior,” said Gourineni. “But for the ones who have embraced the program, we’ve seen tremendous results.”
Effects of meditation on sleep is a relatively new field and the data on its relationship is growing. Gourineni was the principal investigator for a small study which showed that practicing deep relaxation techniques during the daytime can help improve sleep at night. The patients in her study saw improvements in sleep quality, total sleep time and depression.
In the future the doctors hope to work with Chicago-area yoga teachers to build a network of recommended places for patients to practice yoga. For more information on the Comprehensive Insomnia Clinic, please call 312-926-2650.