A new study says that the best long-term solution to insomnia is good bedtime habits.
Many people sleep better when they are on holiday and wish that they could sleep as well all the time. But according to the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), it is not only being free of daily worries that can make a difference to sleep. Good bedtime habits can help people to sleep well all year round.
edication provides short-term relief at best. In information published on www.informedhealthonline.org, the Institute reports about what bedtime habits could help, how well relaxation techniques work, how sleep changes throughout life and that adults do not generally need eight hours sleep a night.
About 1 out of every 5 adults in industrial countries have problems sleeping at some point in their lives. In order to provide reliable information on this issue, the Institute analyzed scientific studies that cover a wide range of research on sleep and insomnia.
Sleeping pills - whether herbal or prescription - are being used less than they used to be in countries like Germany. Although products based on herbs like valerian have long been used, the evidence from trials testing their efficacy is far from convincing.
"Prescription sleeping pills can be important in certain situations, but they can cause a lot of adverse effects and are not a long-term solution. For older people, sleep medication can increase the risk of falling, as well as interfering with other medicines," warns the Institute's Director, Professor Peter Sawicki.
"Sleeping pills are not the best way to solve underlying problems like depression or painful conditions that are interfering with a good night's sleep," Peter added.
The habits that can help people get a better night's sleep
Trials have shown that many people could get to sleep a little sooner if they learned relaxation techniques to help them "switch off" when it is time to go to sleep.
Research suggests that a combination of certain habits can help people sleep better. This includes only going to bed when you are tired and ready to go to sleep. Reading and watching TV in bed could actually make it harder to sleep.
If people cannot sleep, it is better for them to get out of bed and do something else rather than focusing on trying to sleep.
Getting up at the same time every morning can help too. Napping during the day might make it harder for you to sleep at night if you are struggling with chronic insomnia.
It is also important to avoid drinking caffeinated drinks and alcohol in the evening, the researcher said.